Aconitine disrupts serotonin neurotransmission via 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor in zebrafish embryo

Hao Chen, Feng Wang, Xuan Ni, Yi Rigui, Yuxia Bai, Liang Xu, Jingfeng Yang, Xuefu Zhang, Jiang Deng, Jiawei Li, Xiaoyu Yin, Wuliji Ao, Kevin W.H. Kwok (Corresponding Author), Wu Dong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Medicinal plants of the genus Aconitum are one of the most commonly used herbs in traditional medicine in East Asia to treat conditions related to the heart, pain, or inflammation. However, these herbs are also dangerous as accidental poisoning due to misuse is a recurring issue. These plants contain a number of diester-diterpenoid alkaloid compounds and aconitine is the most abundant and active one. This study investigated neurotoxicity of aconitine to zebrafish embryos in early development in relation to serotonin regulation. Experimental results showed that aconitine exposure (1, 10, and 100 μM) increased frequency of coiling behavior in zebrafish embryos in a dose-dependent manner and this effect can be triggered by either exposure to 5-hydroxytryptamine 1A (5-HT1A) receptor agonist (±)-8-hydroxy-2-(dipropylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) or overexpression of serotonin receptor 5-htr1ab. At the same time, coiling behavior caused by aconitine exposure could be rescued by co-exposure to 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY-100635 Maleate (WAY100635) and knockdown of 5-htr1ab using morpholino. Exposure to aconitine also significantly increased serotonin receptor 5-htr1ab and 5-htr1bd gene expression at 24 h post fertilization (hpf), but decreased their expression and protein expression of the serotonin receptor at 96 hpf with the high dose. These results suggest that neurotoxicity caused by aconitine is mediated through the 5-HT receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-492
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Aconitum
  • coiling behavior
  • neurotoxicity
  • serotonin
  • zebrafish embryos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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