Gamma radiation represents a potential health risk to aquatic and terrestrial biota, due to its ability to ionize atoms and molecules in living tissues. The effects of exposure to 60Co gamma radiation in zebrafish (Danio rerio) were studied during two sensitive life stages: gametogenesis (F0: 53 and 8.7 mGy/h for 27 days, total doses 31 and 5.2 Gy) and embryogenesis (9.6 mGy/h for 65 h; total dose 0.62 Gy). Progeny of F0 exposed to 53 mGy/h showed 100% mortality occurring at the gastrulation stage corresponding to 8 h post fertilization (hpf). Control and F0 fish exposed to 8.7 mGy/h were used to create four lines in the first filial generation (F1): control, G line (irradiated during parental gametogenesis), E line (irradiated during embryogenesis) and GE line (irradiated during parental gametogenesis and embryogenesis).
A statistically significant cumulative mortality of GE larva (9.3%) compared to controls was found at 96 hpf. E line embryos hatched significantly earlier compared to controls, G and GE (48–72 hpf). The deformity frequency was higher in G and GE, but not E line compared to controls at 72 hpf. One month after parental irradiation, the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was increased in the G line, but did not significantly differ from controls one year after parental irradiation, while at the same time point it was significantly increased in the directly exposed E and GE lines from 60 to 120 hpf. Lipid peroxidation (LPO) was significantly increased in the G line one year after parental irradiation, while significant increase in DNA damage was detected in both the G and GE compared to controls and E line at 72 hpf. Radiation-induced bystander effects, triggered by culture media from tissue explants and observed as influx of Ca2+ ions through the cellular membrane of the reporter cells, were significantly increased in 72 hpf G line progeny one month after irradiation of the parents. One year after parental irradiation, the bystander effects were increased in the E line compared to controls, but not in progeny of irradiated parents (G and GE lines). Overall, this study showed that irradiation of parents can result in multigenerational oxidative stress and genomic instability in irradiated (GE) and non-irradiated (G) progeny of irradiated parents, including increases in ROS formation, LPO, DNA damage and bystander effects. The results therefore highlight the necessity for multi- and transgenerational studies to assess the environmental impact of gamma radiation.