Embryonic exposure to sodium arsenite perturbs vascular development in zebrafish

Catherine W. McCollum, Charu Hans, Shishir Shah, Fatima A. Merchant, Jan Åke Gustafsson, Maria Bondesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Exposure to arsenic in its inorganic form, arsenite, causes adverse effects to many different organs and tissues. Here, we have investigated arsenite-induced adverse effects on vascular tissues in the model organism zebrafish, Danio rerio. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to arsenite at different exposure windows and the susceptibility to vascular tissue damage was recorded at 72. hours post fertilization (hpf). Intersegmental vessel sprouting and growth was most perturbed by exposure to arsenite during the 24-48. hpf window, while disruption in the condensation of the caudal vein plexus was more often observed at the 48-72. hpf exposure window, reflecting when these structures develop during normal embryogenesis. The vascular growth rate was decreased by arsenite exposure, and deviated from that of control embryos at around 24-26.5. hpf. We further mapped changes in expression of key regulators of angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. Downregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1/fms-related tyrosine kinase 1 (vegfr1/flt1) expression was evident already at 24. hpf, coinciding with the decreased vascular growth rate. At later time points, matrix metalloproteinase 9 (mmp9) expression was upregulated, suggesting that arsenite affects the composition of the extracellular matrix. In total, the expression of eight key factors involved in different aspects of vascularization was significantly altered by arsenic exposure. In conclusion, our results show that arsenite is a potent vascular disruptor in the developing zebrafish embryo, a finding that calls for an evaluation of arsenite as a developmental vascular toxicant in mammalian model systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-163
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Toxicology
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Angiogenesis
  • Arsenic
  • Arsenite
  • Vascular development
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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