To investigate the effects of low-dose γ irradiation on apoptosis and development of the brain in zebrafish embryos, cumulative 15 mGy doses of γ rays from a 137Cs source were used to irradiate zebrafish embryos at 2 h post-fertilization (hpf) for 120 h. Apoptosis of the brain, brain morphological development, cell submicroscopic structure and mRNA expression were analyzed, respectively. Results indicate that after 15 mGy exposure, the apoptosis of zebrafish brain increased, vacuoles appeared in brain tissue, some organelles were damaged and vacuoles appeared locally in brain cells. The mRNA expression level of axin2 was significantly upregulated, and those of frizzled, β-catenin, camk2, TCF/ LEF and bcl9 were significantly downregulated in brain tissue. These genes are involved in the Wnt signaling pathway. The findings of this work suggest that low-dose radiation may influence the apoptosis and development of the brain in the zebrafish embryo by inhibiting the Wnt signaling pathway.

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