Sucralose (SUC) is the most consumed artificial sweetener worldwide, not metabolized by the human body, and barely eliminated from water in wastewater treatment plants. Although different studies have reported high concentrations of this sweetener in aquatic environments, limited to no information is known about the toxic effects this drug may produce over water organisms. Moreover, most of the current studies have used non-environmentally relevant concentrations of SUC for these effects. Herein, we aimed to evaluate the harmful effects that environmentally relevant concentrations of SUC may induce in the early life stages of Danio rerio. According to our results, SUC altered the embryonic development of D. rerio, producing several malformations that led to their death. The major malformations were scoliosis, pericardial edema, yolk deformation, and tail malformation. However, embryos also got craniofacial malformations, eye absence, fin absence, dwarfism, delay of the hatching process, and hypopigmentation. SUC also generated an oxidative stress response in the embryos characterized by an increase in the levels of lipid peroxidation, hydroperoxides, and carbonyl proteins. To overcome this oxidative stress response, we observed a significant increase in the levels of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and catalase. Moreover, a significant boost in the expression of antioxidant defense-related genes, Nuclear respiratory factor 1a (Nrf1a) and Nuclear respiratory factor 2a (Nrf2a), was also observed at all concentrations. Concerning apoptosis-related genes, we observed the expression of Caspase 3 (CASP3) and Caspase 9 (CASP9) was increased in a concentration-dependent manner. Overall, we conclude environmentally relevant concentrations of SUC are harmful to the early life stages of fish as they produce malformations, oxidative stress, and increased gene expression of apoptosis-related genes on embryos.
- Artificial sweetener
- Oxidative status