The antidepressant venlafaxine may act as a neurodevelopmental toxicant in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

Flavie Bidel, Carole Di Poi, Hélène Budzinski, Patrick Pardon, William Callewaert, Adeline Arini, Niladri Basu, Ludovic Dickel, Cécile Bellanger, Christelle Jozet-Alves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant venlafaxine (VEN, Effexor®) has become one of the most common antidepressants detected in North American and European streams. Mammalian research has established that VEN exposure is associated with a range of structural, neurochemical, and functional alterations of the brain in adults and newborns. However, the neurodevelopmental effects of VEN on non-target organisms have never been investigated. The aim of our research was to decrease this gap in knowledge by characterizing the effects of VEN exposure on a cephalopod mollusk, the common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis. This species inhabits VEN-contaminated waters and possesses an unusually sophisticated brain. These characteristics render it a unique invertebrate species for studying the neurodevelopmental effects of VEN. Cuttlefish were exposed to environmentally-relevant concentrations of VEN (Measured concentrations ≈5 and 100 ng L-1) or to filtered natural seawater (control) in a closed-loop system with regular water changes during the first 20 days after hatching. We evaluated brain maturation as well as neurochemical changes and behavioral performances during this critical period of development. Our results show that both VEN-exposed groups exhibited a decrease in norepinephrine levels, along with a reduction in the relative number of glutamate NMDA-like receptors binding sites in the group exposed to 5 ng L-1 of VEN after 20 days of exposure. Brain regional changes in cellular proliferation were observed in VEN-exposed groups in the vertical lobe (i.e. a key structure involved in cognitive processes) and in the optic lobes (i.e. main visual processing centers) in the absence of significant change in their volume. Along with these neurodevelopmental changes, 20 days of exposure to 100 ng L-1 of VEN was associated with a decrease in camouflage ability. Overall, our study suggests that VEN is a neurodevelopmental toxicant in non-target aquatic organisms at environmentally-relevant concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-153
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is a contribution to the Pharm@Ecotox project funded by the French National Research Agency ( ANR-10-CESA-0013 , fr: Agence Nationale de la Recherche). This research was also supported by a doctoral grant from the Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie (France) to F. Bidel, and a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Discovery Grant to N. Basu. This work was also funded by a traveling fellowship from the Company of Biologists to F. Bidel. The authors gratefully acknowledge Céline Zatylny-Gaudin and Joël Henry for providing us data on serotonin transporters in Sepia, Juliette Guillaume, Nadège Naud and Céline Thomasse for their work in the neurobiological study, Caitlin O’Brien for editing the English in this manuscript and the staff of the Centre de Recherches en Environnement Côtier (Luc-sur-Mer, France) for egg collection and technical assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Brain maturation
  • Camouflage
  • Cell proliferation
  • Cephalopods
  • Monoamines
  • Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI)


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