2022 journal article

Utilizing a Population-Genetic Framework to Test for Gene-Environment Interactions between Zebrafish Behavior and Chemical Exposure


By: P. Thunga n, L. Truong*, Y. Rericha*, J. Du*, M. Morshead*, R. Tanguay*, D. Reif

author keywords: gene-environment interaction; chemical risk-assessment; zebrafish behavior; toxicity screening
Source: ORCID
Added: December 10, 2022

Individuals within genetically diverse populations display broad susceptibility differences upon chemical exposures. Understanding the role of gene-environment interactions (GxE) in differential susceptibility to an expanding exposome is key to protecting public health. However, a chemical’s potential to elicit GxE is often not considered during risk assessment. Previously, we’ve leveraged high-throughput zebrafish (Danio rerio) morphology screening data to reveal patterns of potential GxE effects. Here, using a population genetics framework, we apportioned variation in larval behavior and gene expression in three different PFHxA environments via mixed-effect modeling to assess significance of GxE term. We estimated the intraclass correlation (ICC) between full siblings from different families using one-way random-effects model. We found a significant GxE effect upon PFHxA exposure in larval behavior, and the ICC of behavioral responses in the PFHxA exposed population at the lower concentration was 43.7%, while that of the control population was 14.6%. Considering global gene expression data, a total of 3746 genes showed statistically significant GxE. By showing evidence that heritable genetics are directly affecting gene expression and behavioral susceptibility of individuals to PFHxA exposure, we demonstrate how standing genetic variation in a heterogeneous population such as ours can be leveraged to test for potential GxE.