Influence of pH on the uptake and toxicity of β-blockers in embryos of zebrafish, Danio rerio

Abstract

ß-blockers are weak bases with acidity constants related to their secondary amine group. At environmental pH they are protonated with tendency to shift to their neutral species at more alkaline pH. Here we studied the influence of pH from 5.5 to 8.6 on the toxicity of the four ß-blockers atenolol, metoprolol, labetalol and propranolol in zebrafish embryos, relating toxicity not only in a conventional way to external aqueous concentrations but also to measured internal concentrations.

Besides lethality we evaluated changes in swimming activity and heartbeat, using the Locomotor Response (LMR) method and the Vertebrate Automated Screening Technology (VAST) for high throughput imaging.

Effects of metoprolol, labetalol and propranolol were detected on phenotype, heart rate and swimming activity. External effect concentrations decreased with increasing neutral fraction for all three pharmaceuticals, attributed by an enhanced uptake of the neutral species in comparison to the corresponding charged form. The LC50 of metoprolol decreased by a factor of 35 from 1.91 mM at almost complete cationic state at pH 7.0 to 0.054 mM with 8% neutral fraction at pH 8.6. For propranolol the LC50 of 2.42 mM at pH 5.5 was even 100 fold higher than the LC50 of 0.023 mM at pH 8.0 where 3% were neutral fraction. No effects were detected in the zebrafish embryo exposed to atenolol.

The internal concentrations for metoprolol and propranolol were quantified at non-toxic concentrations and at LC10. Apparent bioconcentration factors (BCF) ranged from 1.96 at pH 7.0 to 32.0 at pH 8.6 for metoprolol and from 1.86 at pH 5.5 to 169 at pH 8.0 for propranolol. The BCFs served to model the internal effect concentrations from the measured external effect concentrations.

Internal effect concentrations of metoprolol and propranolol were in a similar range for all pH-values and for all endpoints. Interestingly the internal effect concentrations were in the internal concentration range of baseline toxicity, which suggests that the effects of the ß-blockers are rather unspecific, even for sublethal effects on heart rate. In summary, our data confirm that the pH-dependent toxicity related to external concentrations can be explained by toxicokinetic effects and that the internal effect concentrations are pH-independent.

Keywords

β-blocker; Internal effect concentration; pH; Zebrafish

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166445X18301152