Carbamate nerve agent prophylatics exhibit distinct toxicological effects in the zebrafish embryo model

Audrey Fischer, Marc Wolman, Michael Granato, Michael Parsons, Andrew S. McCallion, Jody Proescher, Emily English

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Pyridostigmine bromide (PB) is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of myasthenia gravis and a prophylactic pre-treatment for organophosphate nerve agent poisoning. Current methods for evaluating nerve agent treatments include enzymatic studies and mammalian models. Rapid whole animal screening tools for assessing the effects of nerve agent pre-treatment and post-exposure drugs represent an underdeveloped area of research. We used zebrafish as a model for acute and chronic developmental exposure to PB and two related carbamate acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, neostigmine bromide (NB) and physostigmine (PS). Lethal doses and gross morphological phenotypes resulting from exposure to sub-lethal doses of these compounds were determined. Quantitative analyses of motility impairment and AChE enzyme inhibition were used to determine optimal dosing conditions for evaluation of the effects of carbamate exposures on neuronal development; ~. 50% impairment of response to startle stimuli and >. 50% inhibition of AChE activity were observed at 80. mM. PB, 20. mM NB and 0.1. mM PS. PB induced stunted somite length, but no other phenotypic effects were observed. In contrast, NB and PS induced more severe phenotypic morphological defects than PB as well as neurite outgrowth mislocalization. Additionally, NB induced mislocalization of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, resulting in impaired synapse formation. Taken together, these data suggest that altered patterns of neuronal connectivity contribute to the developmental neurotoxicity of carbamates and demonstrate the utility of the zebrafish model for distinguishing subtle structure-based differential effects of AChE inhibitors, which include nerve agents, pesticides and drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Carbamate
  • Neostigmine bromide
  • Nerve agent treatment
  • Physostigmine
  • Pyridostigmine bromide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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