Because of its analgesic properties, acetaminophen (AAP) is widely used to relieve headache. AAP is generally considered safe for humans, but its effects on aquatic organisms are not well known. Here, we have hypothesis that effects of AAP on aquatic organisms would be environmental temperature dependent, because their physiological function depend on the temperature. To test this hypothesis, we used medaka (Oryzias latipes) as a model, because they can live at a wide range of temperatures (0–40 °C). We exposed medaka larvae to 0 (control), 50, or 150 mg/L of AAP at 15, 25 (optimal temperature), or 30 °C for 4 days. Egg yolk absorption was accelerated with raising temperature at any AAP dose. AAP exposure did not have biologically significant effects on survival ratio and body length of larvae at any tested temperature or dose, but heart rate decreased as the dose of AAP and environmental temperature increased. In addition, as the temperature increased, amount of ATP in individual larvae increased in control group, but decreased in AAP exposed group. Subsequently, exposure to 150 mg/L of AAP at 30 °C decreased the number of red blood cells in the gills; we used 150 mg/L of AAP in subsequent hematological and histological analyses. Hematological analysis showed that rising temperature increased the proportion of morphologically abnormal red blood cells in AAP-exposed larvae, suggesting that AAP induced anemia-like signs in larvae. Histological observation of the kidney, which is a hematopoietic organ in fish, revealed no abnormalities. However, in the liver, which is responsible for drug metabolism, the proportion of vacuoles increased with increasing temperature. Although the exposure concentration we tested was higher than environmentally relevant concentrations, our data indicated that rising temperature enhances the toxicity of AAP to medaka larvae, suggesting an ecological risk of AAP due to global warming. This is first study to indicate that toxic effects of acetaminophen on medaka larvae increase with rising water temperature.
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