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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Insights into environmental caffeine contamination in ecotoxicological biomarkers and potential health effects of Danio rerio

Diogo, Barbara S.; Antunes, Sara C.; Pinto, Ivo; Amorim, Joao; Teixeira, Claudia; Teles, Luis Oliva; Golovko, Oksana; Zlabek, Vladimir; Carvalho, Antonio Paulo; Rodrigues, Sara


Caffeine (CAF) exposures have been shown to cause several pharmacological and biological effects in target and non-target organisms. Although there are already several ecotoxicological studies with CAF in non-target organisms, they are focused on marine organisms, with relevant concentrations in these ecosystems, therefore, less ecologically relevant to freshwater ecosystems (the main ecoreceptor of this type of anthropogenic contaminant). The present study aimed to assess the chronic effects (28 days) of sub-lethal and environmentally relevant concentrations of CAF (0.16, 0.42, 1.09, 2.84, 7.40, 19.23, and 50 mu g/L) in Danio rerio. Biochemical endpoints as biomarkers of antioxidant defense, biotransformation, lipid peroxidation, energy sources, and neurotransmission were assessed. CAF exposure induced alterations in antioxidant defenses (su-peroxide dismutase and glutathione reductase activities, and glutathione content) preventing lipid peroxidation. Lactate dehydrogenase activity decreased in all the concentrations tested, while acetylcholinesterase activity was only affected by the highest concentrations tested (19.23 and 50 mu g/L). We also utilized a multi-biomarker approach (Integrated Biomarker Response version 2, IBRv2) to investigate the effects of CAF in the dispersion scope of individual biochemical responses of D. rerio. IBRv2 showed that the concentration of 50 mu g/L promotes the highest stress. However, the results showed that CAF induced disturbances in the metabolic pathways studied in D. rerio. These results demonstrated the toxic effects of CAF on freshwater fish, compromising their physiological functions and evidencing the need for monitoring the residues of CAF released into the inland aquatic environments. Furthermore, this research evidence that phylogenetically and physiologically different species may present different biological responses with concern for ecologically relevant environmental conditions. In this sense, the present study generated ecotoxicologically relevant data, that can be considered by environment regulators, since the here-endpoints evaluated showed sensitivity and consistency in the evaluation of caffeine risks in freshwater environments.


Caffeine; Biomarkers; Zebrafish; Chronic exposure

Published in

2023, Volume: 9, number: 9, article number: e19875
Publisher: CELL PRESS

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Pharmacology and Toxicology
    Environmental Sciences

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