The teleost swim bladder is assumed a homolog of the tetrapod lung. Both swim bladder and lung are developmental targets of persistent aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR(2)) agonists; in zebrafish (Danio rerio) the swim bladder fails to inflate with exposure to 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126). The mechanism for this effect is unknown, but studies have suggested roles of cytochrome P450 1 (CYP1) and cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox-2) in some Ahr-mediated developmental effects in zebrafish. We determined relationships between swim bladder inflation and CYP1 and Cox-2 mRNA expression in PCB126-exposed zebrafish embryos. We also examined effects on ?-catenin dependent transcription, histological effects, and Ahr2 dependence of the effect of PCB126 on swim bladder using morpholinos targeting ahr2. One-day-old embryos were exposed to waterborne PCB126 or carrier (DMSO) for 24h and then held in clean water until day 4, a normal time for swim bladder inflation. The effects of PCB126 were concentration-dependent with EC(50) values of 1.4 to 2.0 nM for induction of the CYP1s, 3.7 and 5.1 nM (or higher) for cox-2a and cox-2b induction, and 2.5 nM for inhibition of swim bladder inflation. Histological defects included a compaction of the developing bladder. Ahr2-morpholino treatment rescued the effect of PCB126 (5 nM) on swim bladder inflation and blocked induction of CYP1A, cox-2a, and cox-2b. With 2nM PCB126 approximately 30% of eleutheroembryos(3) failed to inflate the swim bladder, but there was no difference in CYP1 or cox-2 mRNA expression between those embryos and embryos showing inflated swim bladder. Our results indicate that PCB126 blocks swim bladder inflation via an Ahr2-mediated mechanism. This mechanism seems independent of CYP1 or cox-2 mRNA induction but may involve abnormal development of swim bladder cells.