Behavior and gene expression in the brain of adult self-fertilizing mangrove rivulus fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) after early life exposure to the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA)

Alessandra Carion, Angèle Markey, Julie Hétru, Camille Carpentier, Victoria Suarez-Ulloa, Mathieu Denoël, Ryan L. Earley, Frédéric Silvestre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), a neurotoxin naturally produced by cyanobacteria, diatoms and dinoflagellates, constitutes a serious environmental and health threat especially during acute blooms, which are becoming more frequent. This neurotoxin is implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases (ND) in humans through contaminated water or food consumption. Even low doses of neurotoxic compounds (NCs) can have lasting effects later in life. In this sense, early stages of development constitute a period of high sensitivity to environmental influence, particularly for the central nervous system. To understand the mechanisms underlying the delayed effects of NCs, newly hatched larvae of the mangrove rivulus fish, Kryptolebias marmoratus, were exposed to two sub-lethal doses of BMAA (20 µg/L and 15 mg/L) for 14 days. This fish naturally produces isogenic lineages due to its self-fertilizing reproduction, which is unique case among vertebrates. It thus provides genetic characteristics that allow scientists to study organisms’ true reaction norm, minimizing genetic variability and focusing exclusively on the effects of the environment. Effect assessment was performed at different levels of biological organization to detect inconspicuous effects of BMAA, since this molecule displays long retention in organisms. BMAA effects on life history traits as well as behavioral traits such as boldness and aggressiveness were assessed more than 100 days after exposure. In addition, the relative expression of 7 potential BMAA target genes was studied, given their involvement in neurotransmission or their association with individual variation in boldness and aggressiveness. Selected genes code for reticulon 4 (RTN4), glutamate vesicular transporter 1 (Slc17a7), glutamine synthetase a (Glula), dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4), monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), calmodulin (CaM) and epedymine (Epd). Despite observing no effects of BMAA on growth, reproduction and behavioral traits, BMAA induced a significant increase of the expression of CaM and MAOA genes at 20 µg/L BMAA compared to the control group. A significant decrease of expression was observed between this lowest BMAA dose and 15 mg/L for DRD4, MAOA and CaM genes. Our results suggest disruption of glutamate turnover, intracellular dopamine depletion and activation of astrocyte protective mechanisms, indicating that BMAA might be excitotoxic. Our study revealed that BMAA can have long-lasting effects on the brain that are suspected to affect phenotypic traits with aging. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of studying delayed effects in ecotoxicological studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-121
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Mangrove rivulus
  • DOHaD
  • BMAA
  • brain gene expression
  • neurotoxicity
  • personality traits
  • Brain gene expression
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Personality traits


Dive into the research topics of 'Behavior and gene expression in the brain of adult self-fertilizing mangrove rivulus fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) after early life exposure to the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this