Effects of 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) on neuronal and muscular development in zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos

Vincent Wai Tsun Li, Mei Po Mirabelle Tsui, Xueping Chen, Michelle Nga Yu Hui, Ling Jin, Raymond H.W. Lam, Richard Man Kit Yu, Margaret B. Murphy, Jinping Cheng, Paul Kwan Sing Lam, Shuk Han Cheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


The negative effects of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in humans, including sunburn and light-induced cellular injury, are of increasing public concern. 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC), an organic chemical UV filter, is an active ingredient in sunscreen products. To date, little information is available about its neurotoxicity during early vertebrate development. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to various concentrations of 4-MBC in embryo medium for 3 days. In this study, a high concentration of 4-MBC, which is not being expected at the current environmental concentrations in the environment, was used for the purpose of phenotypic screening. Embryos exposed to 15 μM of 4-MBC displayed abnormal axial curvature and exhibited impaired motility. Exposure effects were found to be greatest during the segmentation period, when somite formation and innervation occur. Immunostaining of the muscle and axon markers F59, znp1, and zn5 revealed that 4-MBC exposure leads to a disorganized pattern of slow muscle fibers and axon pathfinding errors during the innervation of both primary and secondary motor neurons. Our results also showed reduction in AChE activity upon 4-MBC exposure both in vivo in the embryos (15 μM) and in vitro in mammalian Neuro-2A cells (0.1 μM), providing a possible mechanism for 4-MBC-induced muscular and neuronal defects. Taken together, our results have shown that 4-MBC is a teratogen and influences muscular and neuronal development, which may result in developmental defects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8275-8285
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Neuron
  • Somite
  • Toxicity
  • Zebrafish embryos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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