Impacts of developmental exposures to the harmful algal bloom toxin domoic acid on neural development and behavior
Author(s)Panlilio, Jennifer Martinez.
Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Mark E. Hahn and Neelakanteswar Alum.
MetadataShow full item record
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) can produce potent neurotoxins that accumulate in seafood and affect human health. One HAB toxin of concern is domoic acid (DomA), a glutamate analog produced by the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia spp. Current regulatory limits are designed to prevent acute neurotoxicity in adult humans. However, research shows that low-level exposure during early life can lead to long-term changes in behavior, neural connectivity, and brain morphology. To determine the underlying mechanisms of developmental toxicity, this dissertation used zebrafish as a tool to: i) Establish the developmental window of susceptibility for DomA toxicity, ii) Characterize the behavioral consequences of exposures, and iii) Identify the cellular targets and processes perturbed by DomA. I found that DomA exposure particularly at 2 days post fertilization (dpf) led to altered startle response behavior, myelination defects, and the downregulation of axonal and myelin structural genes.Using vital dyes and immunolabeling, I assessed DomA-induced alterations in cells required for the startle response. I found no differences in the number of sensory neuromasts or in the sensory cranial ganglia structures that detect the acoustic stimuli. However, the majority of DomA-treated larvae lacked one or both Mauthner cells - hindbrain neurons critical for fast startle responses. DomA-treated larvae also had oligodendrocytes with fewer and shorter myelin sheaths, and appeared to aberrantly myelinate neuronal cell bodies. The loss of the Mauthner neurons and their axons may lead to a cellular environment where oligodendrocytes myelinate neuronal cell bodies in the absence of adequate axonal targets. Indeed, pharmacological treatment that reduced the oligodendrocyte number also led to the reduction in the number of these aberrant, myelinated cell bodies.These results indicate that exposure to DomA at a particular period in neural development targets specific cell types, disrupts myelination in the spinal cord, and leads to prolonged behavioral deficits. These mechanistic insights support hazard assessments of DomA exposures in humans during critical periods in early development.
This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Thesis: Ph. D., Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Biology; and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), 2019Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentJoint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering., Biology., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.