Multigenerational consequences of early-life cannabinoid exposure in zebrafish


• CBD caused adverse developmental outcomes at much lower concentrations than THC.
• THC and CBD exposure led to expression changes in developmentally imperative genes.
• Sub-lethal concentrations of THC and CBD affected larval and adult zebrafish behavior.
• THC and CBD decreased zebrafish offspring in the F0 but not the F1 generation.


While Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been widely studied in the realm of developmental and reproductive toxicology, few studies have investigated potential toxicities from a second widely used cannabis constituent, cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is popularized for its therapeutic potential for reducing seizure frequencies in epilepsy. This study investigated developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) via multigenerational gene expression patterns, behavior phenotypes, and reproductive fitness of a subsequent F1 following an F0 developmental exposure of zebrafish (Danio rerio) to THC (0.024, 0.12, 0.6 mg/L; 0.08, 0.4, 2 μM) or CBD (0.006, 0.03, 0.15 mg/L; 0.02, 0.1, 0.5 μM). Embryonic exposure at these concentrations did not cause notable morphological abnormalities in either F0 or F1 generations. However, during key developmental stages (14, 24, 48, 72, and 96 h post fertilization) THC and CBD caused differential expression of c-fos,brain-derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf), and deleted-in-azoospermia like (dazl), while in F1 larvae only CBD differentially expressed dazl. Larval photomotor behavior was reduced (F0) or increased (F1) by THC exposure, while CBD had no effect on F0 larvae, but decreased activity in the unexposed F1 larvae. These results support our hypothesis of cannabinoid-related developmental neurotoxicity. As adults, F0 fecundity was reduced, but it was not in F1 adults. Conversely, in the adult open field test there were no significant effects in F0 fish, but a significant reduction in the time in periphery was seen in F1 fish from the highest THC exposure group. The results highlight the need to consider long-term ramifications of early-life exposure to cannabinoids.


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