Klüver, N., Yang, L., Busch, W., Scheffler, K., Renner, P., Strähle, U., and Scholz, S. (2011) Transcriptional Response of Zebrafish Embryos Exposed to Neurotoxic Compounds Reveals a Muscle Activity Dependent hspb11 Expression. PLoS One. 6(12):e29063.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors are widely used as pesticides and drugs. Their primary effect is the overstimulation of cholinergic receptors which results in an improper muscular function. During vertebrate embryonic development nerve activity and intracellular downstream events are critical for the regulation of muscle fiber formation. Whether AChE inhibitors and related neurotoxic compounds also provoke specific changes in gene transcription patterns during vertebrate development that allow them to establish a mechanistic link useful for identification of developmental toxicity pathways has, however, yet not been investigated. Therefore we examined the transcriptomic response of a known AChE inhibitor, the organophosphate azinphos-methyl (APM), in zebrafish embryos and compared the response with two non-AChE inhibiting unspecific control compounds, 1,4-dimethoxybenzene (DMB) and 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP). A highly specific cluster of APM induced gene transcripts was identified and a subset of strongly regulated genes was analyzed in more detail. The small heat shock protein hspb11 was found to be the most sensitive induced gene in response to AChE inhibitors. Comparison of expression in wildtype, ache and sopfixe mutant embryos revealed that hspb11 expression was dependent on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) activity. Furthermore, modulators of intracellular calcium levels within the whole embryo led to a transcriptional up-regulation of hspb11 which suggests that elevated intracellular calcium levels may regulate the expression of this gene. During early zebrafish development, hspb11 was specifically expressed in muscle pioneer cells and Hspb11 morpholino-knockdown resulted in effects on slow muscle myosin organization. Our findings imply that a comparative toxicogenomic approach and functional analysis can lead to the identification of molecular mechanisms and specific marker genes for potential neurotoxic compounds.