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Blocking Expression of AHR2 and ARNT1 in Zebrafish Larvae Protects Against Cardiac Toxicity of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin

Antkiewicz DS, Peterson RE, Heideman W
Toxicol Sci. 2006 Nov;94(1):175-82. Epub 2006 Aug 25.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become an attractive vertebrate model for studying developmental processes, and is emerging as a model system for studying the mechanisms by which xenobiotic compounds perturb normal development. Embryos treated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) shortly after fertilization exhibit a range of adverse effects on the heart: an early reduction in cardiac myocyte number, followed by a change in heart looping and morphology, with an apparent compaction of the ventricle and overall decrease in heart size. These changes are accompanied by impaired cardiac function including a decrease in cardiac output and eventually irreversible ventricular standstill. The mechanisms involved in mediating effects of TCDD on the heart remain unknown. However, it is widely accepted that aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) activation mediates endpoints of TCDD toxicity in vertebrates. In zebrafish, there are multiple forms of AHR and ARNT raising the question about whether different endpoints of TCDD toxicity are mediated by different components of the AHR/ARNT pathway. To address this question we used morpholino oligonucleotide technology to specifically block the expression of zfAHR2, zfARNT1, zfARNT2, and zfCYP1A, and assessed the previously described effects of TCDD on heart morphology, size and function in the developing morphants. We report that blocking zfAHR2 and zfARNT1 expression provided protection against the TCDD-mediated alteration in heart morphology, reduced cardiac myocyte number, decreased cardiac output and ventricular standstill in zebrafish larvae, while the zfarnt2 and zfcyp1a morpholinos did not block the TCDD-induced cardiac toxicity.
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