Chemical Exposure-Induced Developmental Neurotoxicity in Head-Regenerating Schmidtea mediterranea

Johnathan Morris, Elizabeth J. Bealer, Ivan D.S. Souza, Lauren Repmann, Hannah Bonelli, Joseph F. Stanzione, Mary M. Staehle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The growing number of commercially used chemicals that are under-evaluated for developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) combined with the difficulty in describing the etiology of exposure-related neurodevelopmental toxicity has created a reticent threat to human health. Current means of screening chemicals for DNT are limited to expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive traditional laboratory animal models. In this study, we hypothesize that exposed head-regenerating planarian flatworms can effectively and efficiently categorize DNT in known developmental neurotoxins (ethanol and bisphenol A [BPA]). Planarian flatworms are an established alternative animal model for neurodevelopmental studies and have remarkable regenerative abilities allowing neurodevelopment to be induced via head resection. Here, we observed changes in photophobic behavior and central nervous system (CNS) morphology to evaluate the impact of exposure to low concentrations of ethanol, BPA, and BPA industry alternatives bisphenol F, and bisguaiacol on neurodevelopment. Our studies show that exposure to 1% v/v ethanol during regeneration induces a recoverable 48-h delay in the development of proper CNS integrity, which aligns with behavioral assessments of cognitive ability. Exposure to BPA and its alternatives induced deviations to neurodevelopment in a range of severities, distinguished by suppressions, delays, or a combination of the 2. These results suggest that quick and inexpensive behavioral assessments are a viable surrogate for tedious and costly immunostaining studies, equipping more utility and resolution to the planarian model for neurodevelopmental toxicity in the future of mass chemical screening. These studies demonstrate that behavioral phenotypes observed following chemical exposure are classifiable and also temporally correlated to the anatomical development of the CNS in planaria. This will facilitate and accelerate toxicological screening assays with this alternative animal model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-231
Number of pages12
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology


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