Using zebrafish as a model, we previously reported that developmental exposure to triphenyl phosphate (TPP) – a high-production volume organophosphate-based flame retardant – results in dioxin-like cardiac looping impairments that are independent of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor. Using a pharmacologic approach, the objective of this study was to investigate the potential role of retinoic acid receptor (RAR) – a nuclear receptor that regulates vertebrate heart morphogenesis – in mediating TPP-induced developmental toxicity in zebrafish. We first revealed that static exposure of zebrafish from 5–72 h post-fertilization (hpf) to TPP in the presence of non-toxic concentrations of an RAR antagonist (BMS493) significantly enhanced TPP-induced toxicity (relative to TPP alone), even though identical non-toxic BMS493 concentrations mitigated retinoic acid (RA)-induced toxicity. BMS493-mediated enhancement of TPP toxicity was not a result of differential TPP uptake or metabolism, as internal embryonic doses of TPP and diphenyl phosphate (DPP) – a primary TPP metabolite – were not different in the presence or absence of BMS493. Using real-time PCR, we then quantified the relative change in expression of cytochrome P450 26a1 (cyp26a1) a major target gene for RA-induced RAR activation in zebrafish – and found that RA and TPP exposure resulted in a ∼5-fold increase and decrease in cyp26a1 expression, respectively, relative to vehicle-exposed embryos. To address whether TPP may interact with human RARs, we then exposed Chinese hamster ovary cells stably transfected with chimeric human RARα-, RARβ-, or RARγ to TPP in the presence of RA, and found that TPP significantly inhibited RA-induced luciferase activity in a concentration-dependent manner. Overall, our findings suggest that zebrafish RARs may be involved in mediating TPP-induced developmental toxicity, a mechanism of action that may have relevance to humans.

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Date of publication: 19 February 2015 (Online); Aquatic Toxicology, Vol. 161, pg. 221-230, April 2015

Author Information: Gregory M. Isales (1); Rachel A Hipszer (1); Tara D. Raftery (1); Albert Chen (2); Heather M. Stapleton (2); & David C. Volz (1)

(1) Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
(2) Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

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