Document Type

Peer Reviewed/Refereed Publication

Publication Date


Publication Title

Environmental Pollution




Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology


A recent surge in the use and abuse of diverse prescribed psychotic and illicit drugs necessitates the surveillance of drug residues in source water and the associated ecological impacts of chronic exposure to the aquatic organism. Thirty-six psychotic and illicit drug residues were determined in discharged wastewater from two centralized municipal wastewater treatment facilities and two wastewater receiving creeks for seven consecutive days in Kentucky. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae were exposed to the environmental relevant mixtures of all drug residues, all illicit drugs, and all prescribed psychotic drugs. The extracted RNA from fish homogenates was sequenced, and differentially expressed sequences were analyzed for known or predicted nervous system expression, and screened annotated protein-coding genes to the true environmental cocktail mixture. Illicit stimulant (cocaine and one metabolite), opioids (methadone, methadone metabolite, and oxycodone), hallucinogen (MDA), benzodiazepine (oxazepam and temazepam), carbamazepine, and all target selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors including sertraline, fluoxetine, venlafaxine, and citalopram were quantified in 100% of collected samples from both creeks. The high dose cocktail mixture exposure group revealed the largest group of differentially expressed genes: 100 upregulated and 77 downregulated (p ≤ 0.05; q ≤ 0.05). The top 20 differentially expressed sequences in each exposure group comprise 82 unique transcripts corresponding to 74% annotated genes, 7% non-coding sequences, and 19% uncharacterized sequences. Among 61 differentially expressed sequences that corresponded to annotated protein-coding genes, 23 (38%) genes or their homologs are known to be expressed in the nervous system of fish or other organisms. Several of the differentially expressed sequences are associated primarily with the immune system, including several major histocompatibility complex class I and interferon-induced proteins. Interleukin-1 beta (downregulated in this study) abnormalities are considered a risk factor for psychosis. This is the first study to assess the contributions of multiple classes of psychotic and illicit drugs in combination with developmental gene expression.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Elsevier in Environmental Pollution in March 2021, available online:



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