15 March 2022
Transcriptomic profiling of clobetasol propionate-induced immunosuppression in challenged zebrafish embryos
In the ecotoxicological hazard assessment of chemicals, the detection of immunotoxicity is currently neglected. This is mainly due to the complexity of the immune system and the consequent lack of standardized procedures and markers for the comprehensive assessment of immunotoxic modes of action. In this study, we present a new approach applying transcriptome profiling to an immune challenge with a mixture of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) in zebrafish embryos, analyzing differential gene expression during acute infection with and without prior exposure to the immunosuppressive drug clobetasol propionate (CP). While PAMP injection itself triggered biological processes associated with immune activation, some of these genes were more differentially expressed upon prior exposure to CP than by immune induction alone, whereas others showed weaker or no differential regulation in response to the PAMP stimulus. All of these genes responding differently to PAMP after prior CP exposure showed additivity of PAMP- and CP-induced effects, indicating independent regulatory mechanisms. The transcriptomic profiles suggest that CP impaired innate immune induction by attenuating the response of genes involved in antigen processing, TLR signaling, NF-КB signaling, and complement activation. We propose this approach as a powerful method for detecting gene biomarkers for immunosuppressive modes of action, as it was able to identify alternatively regulated processes and pathways in a sublethal, acute infection zebrafish embryo model. This allowed to define biomarker candidates for immune-mediated effects and to comprehensively characterize immunosuppression. Ultimately, this work contributes to the development of molecular biomarker-based environmental hazard assessment of chemicals in the future.