Malformation of certain brain blood vessels caused by TCDD activation of Ahr2/Arnt1 signaling in developing zebrafish
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo- p -dioxin (TCDD) causes various signs of toxicity in early life stages of vertebrates through activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). The AHR also plays important roles in normal development in mice, and AHR −/− mice show abnormal development of vascular structures in various blood vessels. Our previous studies revealed that Ahr type 2 (Ahr2) activation by TCDD and β-naphthoflavone (BNF) caused a significant decrease in blood flow in the dorsal midbrain of zebrafish embryos. Here we report effects of TCDD exposure on the morphology of some blood vessels in the head of developing zebrafish. TCDD caused concentration-dependent anatomical rearrangements in the shape of the prosencephalic artery in zebrafish larvae. In contrast, no major vascular defects were recognized in the trunk and tail regions following exposure to TCDD at least at the concentrations used. Essentially, the same observations were also confirmed in BNF-exposed larvae. Knock-down of either Ahr2 or Ahr nuclear translocator type 1 (Arnt1) by morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs) protected larvae against abnormal shape of the prosencephalic artery caused by TCDD and BNF. On the other hand, knock-down of Ahr2 or Arnt1 in vehicle-exposed zebrafish larvae had no clear effect on morphology of the prosencephalic artery or trunk vessels. Ascorbic acid, an antioxidant, protected against the TCDD-induced decrease in blood flow through the prosencephalic artery, but not the abnormal morphological changes in the shape of this artery. These results indicate that activation of Ahr2/Arnt1 pathway by TCDD and BNF affects the shape of certain blood vessels in the brain of developing zebrafish.