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Neurotoxicology And Teratology


Asexual freshwater planarians are an attractive invertebrate model for high-throughput neurotoxicity screening, because they possess multiple quantifiable behaviors to assess distinct neuronal functions. Planarians uniquely allow direct comparisons between developing and adult animals to distinguish developmentally selective effects from general neurotoxicity. In this study, we used our automated planarian screening platform to compare the neurotoxicity of 15 flame retardants (FRs), consisting of representative phased-out brominated (BFRs) and replacement organophosphorus FRs (OPFRs). OPFRs have emerged as a proposed safer alternative to BFRs; however, limited information is available on their health effects. We found 11 of the 15 FRs (3/6 BFRs, 7/8 OPFRs, and Firemaster 550) caused adverse effects in both adult and developing planarians with similar nominal lowest-effect-levels for BFRs and OPFRs. This suggests that replacement OPFRs are comparably neurotoxic to the phased-out compounds. BFRs were primarily systemically toxic, whereas OPFRs, except Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate, shared a behavioral phenotype in response to noxious heat at sublethal concentrations, indicating specific neurotoxic effects. We found this behavioral phenotype was correlated with cholinesterase inhibition, thus linking behavioral outcomes to molecular targets. By directly comparing effects on adult and developing planarians, we further found that one BFR (3,3′,5,5′-Tetrabromobisphenol A) caused a developmental selective defect. Together, these results demonstrate that our planarian screening platform yields high content data from various behavioral and morphological endpoints, allowing us to distinguish selective neurotoxic effects and effects specific to the developing nervous system. Ten of these 11 bioactive FRs were previously found to be bioactive in other models, including cell culture and alternative animal models (nematodes and zebrafish). This level of concordance across different platforms emphasizes the urgent need for further evaluation of OPFRs in mammalian systems.


Alternative animal models, Planarian, Flame retardants, OPFRs, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, Developmental neurotoxicity


This work is a preprint that is freely available courtesy of Elsevier and the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society.