Effects of 25 thyroid hormone disruptors on zebrafish embryos: A literature review of potential biomarkers

Kyra Spaan, Ann Cathrin Haigis, Jana Weiss, Jessica Legradi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


It is estimated that many organic compounds found in our environment can interfere with the thyroid system and act as thyroid hormone (TH) disruptor. Despite that, there is a clear lack of assays to identify TH disruptors. Recently zebrafish embryos were suggested as screening tool to identify compounds which impact thyroid synthesis. Effects on hormone level, gene transcript expression, eye development and swim bladder inflation are suggested as potential biomarker for TH disruptors. In order to assess the applicability of these biomarkers we performed a literature review. The effects of 25 known TH disrupting compounds were compared between studies. The studies were limited to exposures with embryos prior 7 days of development. The different study designs and the lack of standardized methods complicated the comparison of the results. The most common responses were morphological alterations and gene transcript expression changes, but no specific biomarker for TH disruption could be identified. In studies addressing TH disruption behavioral effects were more commonly monitored than in studies not mentioning the TH pathway. TH disruption in developing zebrafish embryos might be caused by different modes of action e.g. disruption of follicle development, binding of TH, activation of TH receptors causing different effects. Timing of developmental processes in combination with exposure duration might also play a role. On the other side compound characteristics (uptake, stability, metabolization) could also cause differences between substances. Further studies are necessary to gain better understanding into the mechanisms of TH disruption in early zebrafish development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1238-1249
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Biomarker
  • EDC
  • HPT axis
  • Thyroid endocrine disruption
  • Zebrafish embryo/larvae


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