The aim of this study was to evaluate the teratogenic effects of three common Chinese medical prescriptions, Si Jun Zi Tang (SJZT), Liu Jun Zi Tang (LJZT) and Shenling Baizhu San (SLBS), during zebrafish pronephros development. We used the transgenic zebrafish line Tg(wt1b:EGFP) to assess the teratogenic effects using 12 different protocols, which comprised combinations of 4 doses (0, 25, 250, 1,250 ng/mL) and 3 exposure methods [methods I, 12–36 hours post fertilization (hpf), II, 24–48 hpf, and III, 24–36 hpf]. As a result, few defects in the kidneys were observed in the embryos exposed to 25 ng/mL of each medical prescription. The percentage of kidney malformation phenotypes increased as the exposure concentrations increased (25 ng/mL, 0–10%; 250 ng/mL, 0–60%; 1,250 ng/mL, 80–100%). Immunohistochemistry for α6F, which is a basolateral and renal tubular differentiation marker, revealed no obvious defective phenotypes in either SJZT- or LJZT-treated embryos, indicating that these Chinese medical prescriptions had minimal adverse effects on the pronephric duct. However, SLBS-treated embryos displayed a defective phenotype in the pronephric duct. According to these findings, we suggest (1) that the Chinese medical prescriptions induced kidney malformation phenotypes that are dose dependent and (2) that the embryonic zebrafish kidney was more sensitive to SLBS than SJZT and LJZT.
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