The antidepressant venlafaxine disrupts brain monoamine levels and neuroendocrine responses to stress in rainbow trout

Nataliya Melnyk-Lamont, Carol Best, Manuel Gesto, Mathilakath M. Vijayan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Venlafaxine, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, is a widely prescribed antidepressant drug routinely detected in the aquatic environment. However, little is known about its impact on the physiology of nontarget organisms. We tested the hypothesis that venlafaxine perturbs brain monoamine levels and disrupts molecular responses essential for stress coping and feeding activity in fish. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were exposed to waterborne venlafaxine (0.2 and 1.0 μg/L) for 7 days. This treatment elevated norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine levels in the brain in a region-specific manner. Venlafaxine also increased the transcript levels of genes involved in stress and appetite regulation, including corticotropin releasing factor, pro-opiomelanocortin B, and glucose transporter type 2 in distinct brain regions of trout. The drug treatment reduced the total feed consumed per day, but did not affect the feeding behavior of the dominant and subordinate fish. However, the subordinate fish from the venlafaxine-exposed group had significantly higher plasma cortisol levels compared to the subordinate fish in the control group. Collectively, our results demonstrate that venlafaxine, at environmentally realistic levels, is a neuroendocrine disruptor, impacting the stress and feeding responses in rainbow trout. We propose the midbrain region as a key target for venlafaxine impact and the mode of action involves abnormal monoamine content in trout.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
Pages (from-to)13434-13442
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemistry (all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Drug therapy
  • Feeding
  • Fish
  • Norepinephrine
  • Antidepressant drug
  • Aquatic environments
  • Corticotropin-releasing factors
  • Feeding activities
  • Glucose transporters
  • Molecular response
  • Non-target organism
  • Rainbow trouts (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  • Brain
  • brain monoamine
  • corticotropin releasing factor
  • dopamine
  • glucose
  • glucose transporter 2
  • hydrocortisone
  • proopiomelanocortin
  • serotonin
  • venlafaxine
  • endocrine disruptor
  • feeding behavior
  • inhibitor
  • organic compound
  • physiological response
  • plasma
  • salmonid
  • animal experiment
  • aquatic environment
  • Article
  • brain region
  • cerebellum
  • controlled study
  • coping behavior
  • dopamine brain level
  • feeding
  • food intake
  • glucose blood level
  • hydrocortisone blood level
  • hypothalamus
  • mesencephalon
  • neuroendocrine system
  • nonhuman
  • preoptic area
  • rainbow trout
  • rhombencephalon
  • serotonin brain level
  • stress
  • superior colliculus
  • telencephalon
  • water sampling
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss
  • Salmonidae

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