Extremely Low-Frequency Magnetic Fields Induce Developmental Toxicity and Apoptosis in Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Embryos


Extremely low-frequency (ELF) magnetic field (MF), as a widespread ecological factor, has an influence on all living beings. In the present study, biological effects of ELF-MF on the development of zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos were investigated. Fertilized embryos were divided into seven groups as control, sham, and five experimental groups. Embryos of experimental groups were continuously exposed to 50-Hz sinusoidal MF with intensities of 30, 100, 200, 400, and 800 μT for 96 h. The sham group was treated as the experimental groups, but without any ELF-MF exposure. The control group was not subjected to anything. The results showed that ELF-MF exposure caused delayed hatching and decreased heart rate at the early developmental stages of zebrafish embryos, whereas no significant differences in embryo mortality and abnormality were observed. Moreover, acridine orange staining assays showed notable signals of apoptosis mainly in the ventral fin and spinal column. The transcription of apoptosis-related genes (caspase-3, caspase-9) was significantly upregulated in ELF-MF-exposed embryos. In conclusion, the overall results demonstrated that ELF-MF exposure has detrimental effects on the embryonic development of zebrafish by affecting the hatching, decreasing the heart rate, and inducing apoptosis, although such effects were not mortal threat. The results also indicate that zebrafish embryos can serve as a reliable model to investigate the biological effect of ELF-MF.

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This study was supported by grants from the Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education (No. 20130142110016), Science and Technology Project of State Grid Corporation of China (No. GY71-13-057), Technology Innovation Fund, and Independent Innovation Fund of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. The authors extend their gratitude to the Wuhan High Voltage Institute for guiding the creation of the ELF-MF-generating equipment.

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The authors indicate no potential conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Hongjuan Wu.

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Li, Y., Liu, X., Liu, K. et al. Extremely Low-Frequency Magnetic Fields Induce Developmental Toxicity and Apoptosis in Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Embryos. Biol Trace Elem Res 162, 324–332 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-014-0130-5

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  • Zebrafish embryo
  • ELF-MF
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Apoptosis