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Fluorene-9-bisphenol acts on the gut-brain axis by regulating oxytocin signaling to disturb social behaviors in zebrafish.

Previous studies have identified the exposure to ubiquitous environmental endocrine disruptors may be a risk factor of neurological disorders. However, the effects of fluorene-9-bisphenol (BHPF) in environmental exposure concentrations associated with these disorders are poorly understood. In this study, classic light-dark and social behavior tests were performed on zebrafish larvae and adults exposed BHPF exposure to evaluate social behavioral disorders and the microbiota-gut-brain axis was assessed to reveal the potential mechanisms underlying the behavioral abnormalities observed. Our results demonstrated that zebrafish larvae exposed to an environmentally relevant concentration (0.1 nM/L) of BHPF for 7 days showed a diminished response to external environmental factors (light or dark). Zebrafish larvae exposed to BHPF for 7 days or adults exposed to BHPF for 30 days at 1 μM/L displayed significant behavioral inhibition and altered social behaviors, including social recognition, social preference, and social fear contagion, indicating autism-like behaviors were induced by the exposure. BHPF exposure reduced the distribution of Nissl bodies in midbrain neurons and significantly reduced 5-hydroxytryptamine signaling. Oxytocin (OXT) levels and expression of its receptor oxtra in the gut and brain were down-regulated by BHPF exposure. In addition, the expression levels of genes related to the excitation-inhibitory balance of synaptic transmission changed. Microbiomics revealed increased community diversity and altered abundance of some microflora, such as an elevation in Bacillota and Bacteroidota and a decline in Mycoplasmatota in zebrafish guts, which might contribute to the abnormal neural circuits and autism-like behaviors induced by BHPF. Finally, the rescue effect of exogenous OXT on social behavioral defects induced by BHPF exposure was verified in zebrafish, highlighting the crucial role of OXT signaling through gut-brain axis in the regulatory mechanisms of social behaviors affected by BHPF. This study contributes to understanding the effects of environmental BHPF exposure on neuropsychiatric disorders and attracts public attention to the health risks posed by chemicals in aquatic organisms. The potential mental disorders should be considered in the safety assessments of environmental pollutants.

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