This research explored several biological effects of uranium (U) in zebrafish exposed to low waterborne uranium concentrations (20 and 100 μg/L).
In tissue specific study (brain, liver, skeletal muscles and gills) of transcriptional responses in 20 genes identified the nature of the potential U effects during 28 days of exposure followed by an 8-day depuration phase in connection with U bioaccumualtion. Liver and gills accumulate high concentrations of U and the depuration is efficient contrary to the brain and muscles. U exposure induced a later response in liver (inflammatory process, apoptosis and detoxification) and gills (oxidative balance) and an early one in brain (neuronal response) and muscles (mitochondrial metabolism). Brain and muscles appear sensitive since defence mechanisms are inefficient above low concentrations.
A further study on these two organs examined the function and protein content of the respiratory mitochondrial chain following U exposure. An inhibition of the respiratory control ratio for the lowest concentration, variation in the protein synthesis of the complex IV (induction of cytochrome c oxydase sub-unit I and IV) and histological damage (dilatation in brain and vacuolization in muscles) were observed. Another study focused on the early effects on the brain and was accomplished through a large transcriptional analysis coupled with examinations of the olfactory bulb ultrastructure. A depression of genes encoding olfactory receptor or111-7 and or102-5 was observed as rapidly as 3 days post-exposure to the lowest concentration of U. These responses and histological injuries suggest that the olfactory system could be sensitive to U exposure.