Developmental toxicity and estrogenic potency of zearalenone in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Katalin Bakos, Róbert Kovács, Ádám Staszny, Dóra Kánainé Sipos, Béla Urbányi, Ferenc Müller, Zsolt Csenki, Balázs Kovács

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Zearalenone (ZEA, F2) is one of the most common mycotoxins and the only known mycoestrogen. It enters the food and feed chain from contaminated cereals and infiltrates into sewage or natural waters posing potential threat to exposed livestock, wildlife and humans. Therefore evaluation of its biological effects is of international importance. We performed toxicological tests on zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae and adults. Developmental toxicity was assessed by an extended (5 days) fish embryo toxicity test (FET). Effects of early ZEA exposure were concentration-dependent with LC50 and LC10 values of 893 and 335μg/L. In larvae exposed to 500μg/L and above, ZEA induced similar phenotype to has (heart-and soul) showing defects in heart and eye development and upward curvature of the body axis. From 250μg/L at 72hpf the gap in the melanophore streak at the base of the tail fin was missing and the fin fold was abnormal, suggesting disturbance in the development of the adult tail fin primordium. Estrogenic potency was measured on the basis of Vitellogenin (Vtg) protein (adults) levels and relative abundance of vitellogenin-1 mRNA (vtg-1) (larvae and adults). qRT-PCR in larvae proved to be sufficient substitute to adult tests and sensitive enough to detect ZEA in 0.1μg/L concentrations, that is close to levels observed in wastewaters. Developmental defects reveal that besides direct estrogenic effects, zearalenone might interact with other ontogenic pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 5 2013



  • Heart-and-soul (has) phenotype
  • Tail fin primordium
  • Tail morphology
  • Vitellogenin (Vtg and vtg-1)
  • Zearalenone (ZEA)
  • Zebrafish toxicity test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

Cite this

Bakos, K., Kovács, R., Staszny, Á., Sipos, D. K., Urbányi, B., Müller, F., Csenki, Z., & Kovács, B. (2013). Developmental toxicity and estrogenic potency of zearalenone in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Aquatic Toxicology, 136-137, 13-21.