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1.  From Omics to Drug Metabolism and High Content Screen of Natural Product in Zebrafish: A New Model for Discovery of Neuroactive Compound 
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has recently become a common model in the fields of genetics, environmental science, toxicology, and especially drug screening. Zebrafish has emerged as a biomedically relevant model for in vivo high content drug screening and the simultaneous determination of multiple efficacy parameters, including behaviour, selectivity, and toxicity in the content of the whole organism. A zebrafish behavioural assay has been demonstrated as a novel, rapid, and high-throughput approach to the discovery of neuroactive, psychoactive, and memory-modulating compounds. Recent studies found a functional similarity of drug metabolism systems in zebrafish and mammals, providing a clue with why some compounds are active in zebrafish in vivo but not in vitro, as well as providing grounds for the rationales supporting the use of a zebrafish screen to identify prodrugs. Here, we discuss the advantages of the zebrafish model for evaluating drug metabolism and the mode of pharmacological action with the emerging omics approaches. Why this model is suitable for identifying lead compounds from natural products for therapy of disorders with multifactorial etiopathogenesis and imbalance of angiogenesis, such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, cardiotoxicity, cerebral hemorrhage, dyslipidemia, and hyperlipidemia, is addressed.
PMCID: PMC3420231  PMID: 22919414
2.  Small molecule screening in zebrafish: an in vivo approach to identifying new chemical tools and drug leads 
In the past two decades, zebrafish genetic screens have identified a wealth of mutations that have been essential to the understanding of development and disease biology. More recently, chemical screens in zebrafish have identified small molecules that can modulate specific developmental and behavioural processes. Zebrafish are a unique vertebrate system in which to study chemical genetic systems, identify drug leads, and explore new applications for known drugs. Here, we discuss some of the advantages of using zebrafish in chemical biology, and describe some important and creative examples of small molecule screening, drug discovery and target identification.
PMCID: PMC2912314  PMID: 20540792
3.  Using the Zebrafish Photomotor Response for Psychotropic Drug Screening 
Methods in cell biology  2011;105:517-524.
Because psychotropic drugs affect behavior, we can use changes in behavior to discover psychotropic drugs. The original prototypes of most neuroactive medicines were discovered in humans, rodents and other model organisms. Most of these discoveries were made by chance, but the process of behavior based drug discovery can be made more systematic and efficient. Fully automated platforms for analyzing the behavior of embryonic zebrafish capture digital video recordings of animals in each individual well of a 96-well plate before, during, and after a series of stimuli. To analyze systematically the thousands of behavioral recordings obtained from a large-scale chemical screen, we transform these behavioral recordings into numerical barcodes, providing a concise and interpretable summary of the observed phenotypes in each well. Systems-level analysis of these behavioral phenotypes generate testable hypotheses about the molecular mechanisms of poorly understood drugs and behaviors. By combining the in vivo relevance of behavior-based phenotyping with the scale and automation of modern drug screening technologies, systematic behavioral barcoding represents a means of discovering psychotropic drugs and provides a powerful, systematic approach for unraveling the complexities of vertebrate behavior.
PMCID: PMC3635141  PMID: 21951545
4.  Automated image-based phenotypic analysis in zebrafish embryos 
Presently, the zebrafish is the only vertebrate model compatible with contemporary paradigms of drug discovery. Zebrafish embryos are amenable to automation necessary for high-throughput chemical screens, and optical transparency makes them potentially suited for image-based screening. However, the lack of tools for automated analysis of complex images presents an obstacle to utilizing the zebrafish as a high-throughput screening model. We have developed an automated system for imaging and analyzing zebrafish embryos in multi-well plates regardless of embryo orientation and without user intervention. Images of fluorescent embryos were acquired on a high-content reader and analyzed using an artificial intelligence-based image analysis method termed Cognition Network Technology (CNT). CNT reliably detected transgenic fluorescent embryos (Tg(fli1:EGFP)y1) arrayed in 96-well plates and quantified intersegmental blood vessel development in embryos treated with small molecule inhibitors of anigiogenesis. The results demonstrate it is feasible to adapt image-based high-content screening methodology to measure complex whole organism phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2861575  PMID: 19235725
cognition network technology; high-content screening; angiogenesis; pironetin; zebrafish
5.  Drug Discovery in Psychiatric Illness: Mining for Gold 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2009;35(2):287-292.
The discovery of truly efficacious treatments that lead to full recovery is a daunting task in psychiatric illness. A systems-based orientation to in vivo pharmacology has been suggested as a way to transform psychiatric drug discovery and development. A critical catalyst in the success of recent systems biology efforts has been the incorporation of data mining strategies. Our approach to the drug discovery problem has been to utilize the whole animal to provide a systems response that is subsequently mined for predictive attributes with known psychopharmacological value. Our in vivo data mining approach, termed Pattern Array, establishes a framework for screening novel chemical entities based upon a response that represents the net pharmacological effect on the system of interest, namely the central nervous system (CNS). Large scale screening of small molecules by non-conventional approaches such as this at a systems level may improve the identification of novel chemical entities with psychiatric utility. This type of approach will compliment the more labor-intensive models based upon construct validity. It will take the collective effort of many disciplines and numerous strategies in close association with clinical colleagues to address quality of life issues and breakthrough treatment barriers in psychiatric illness.
PMCID: PMC2659322  PMID: 19297381
Data mining; animal model; systems biology; exploratory behavior; Pattern Array; SEE
6.  Hematopoietic stem cells, hematopoiesis and disease: lessons from the zebrafish model 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(12):83.
The zebrafish model is rapidly gaining prominence in the study of development, hematopoiesis, and disease. The zebrafish provides distinct advantages over other vertebrate models during early embryonic development by producing transparent, externally fertilized embryos. Embryonic zebrafish are easily visualized and manipulated through microinjection, chemical treatment, and mutagenesis. These procedures have contributed to large-scale chemical, suppressor, and genetic screens to identify hematopoietic gene mutations. Genomic conservation and local synteny between the human and zebrafish genomes make genome-scale and epigenetic analysis of these mutations (by microarray, chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing, and RNA sequencing procedures) powerful methods for translational research and medical discovery. In addition, large-scale screening techniques have resulted in the identification of several small molecules capable of rescuing hematopoietic defects and inhibiting disease. Here, we discuss the contributions of the zebrafish model to the understanding of hematopoiesis, hematopoietic stem cell development, and disease-related discovery. We also highlight the recent discovery of small molecules with clinical promise, such as dimethyl prostaglandin E2, 3F8, and thiazole-carboxamide 10A.
PMCID: PMC3334548  PMID: 22206610
Chemical screen, disease; fate mapping; hematopoiesis; HSCs; morpholino; mutagenesis; suppressor screen; transplantation; zebrafish
7.  Chemical Genetic Screening in the Zebrafish Embryo 
Nature protocols  2009;4(10):1422-1432.
Chemical genetic screening can be described as a discovery approach in which chemicals are assayed for their effects on a defined biological system. The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is a well-characterized and genetically tractable vertebrate model organism that produces large numbers of rapidly developing embryos that develop externally. These characteristics allow for flexible, rapid, and scalable chemical screen design using the zebrafish. We describe a protocol for screening compounds from a chemical library for effects on early zebrafish development using an automated in situ based read-out. Because screens are performed in the context of a complete, developing organism, this approach allows for a more comprehensive analysis of the range of a chemical’s effects than that provided by, for example, a cell culture-based or in vitro biochemical assay. Using a twenty-four hour chemical treatment, one can complete a round of screening in six days.
PMCID: PMC2943144  PMID: 19745824
8.  Zebrafish Genetic Models for Arrhythmia 
Over the last decade the zebrafish has emerged as a major genetic model organism. While stimulated originally by the utility of its transparent embryos for the study of vertebrate organogenesis, the success of the zebrafish was consolidated through multiple genetic screens, sequencing of the fish genome by the Sanger Centre, and the advent of extensive genomic resources. In the last few years the potential of the zebrafish for in vivo cell biology, physiology, disease modeling and drug discovery has begun to be realized. This review will highlight work on cardiac electrophysiology, emphasizing the arenas in which the zebrafish complements other in vivo and in vitro models; developmental physiology, large scale screens, high-throughput disease modeling and drug discovery. Much of this work is at an early stage, and so the focus will be on the general principles, the specific advantages of the zebrafish and on future potential.
PMCID: PMC2836909  PMID: 19351520
9.  Optimisation of Embryonic and Larval ECG Measurement in Zebrafish for Quantifying the Effect of QT Prolonging Drugs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60552.
Effective chemical compound toxicity screening is of paramount importance for safe cardiac drug development. Using mammals in preliminary screening for detection of cardiac dysfunction by electrocardiography (ECG) is costly and requires a large number of animals. Alternatively, zebrafish embryos can be used as the ECG waveform is similar to mammals, a minimal amount of chemical is necessary for drug testing, while embryos are abundant, inexpensive and represent replacement in animal research with reduced bioethical concerns. We demonstrate here the utility of pre-feeding stage zebrafish larvae in detection of cardiac dysfunction by electrocardiography. We have optimised an ECG recording system by addressing key parameters such as the form of immobilization, recording temperature, electrode positioning and developmental age. Furthermore, analysis of 3 days post fertilization (dpf) zebrafish embryos treated with known QT prolonging drugs such as terfenadine, verapamil and haloperidol led to reproducible detection of QT prolongation as previously shown for adult zebrafish. In addition, calculation of Z-factor scores revealed that the assay was sensitive and specific enough to detect large drug-induced changes in QTc intervals. Thus, the ECG recording system is a useful drug-screening tool to detect alteration to cardiac cycle components and secondary effects such as heart block and arrhythmias in zebrafish larvae before free feeding stage, and thus provides a suitable replacement for mammalian experimentation.
PMCID: PMC3620317  PMID: 23579446
10.  Evaluation of 14 Organic Solvents and Carriers for Screening Applications in Zebrafish Embryos and Larvae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e43850.
Zebrafish are rapidly growing in popularity as an in vivo model system for chemical genetics, drug discovery, and toxicology, and more recently also for natural product discovery. Experiments involving the pharmacological evaluation of small molecules or natural product extracts in zebrafish bioassays require the effective delivery of these compounds to embryos and larvae. While most samples to be screened are first solubilized in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), which is then diluted in the embryo medium, often this method is not sufficient to prevent the immediate or eventual precipitation of the sample. Certain compounds and extracts are also not highly soluble in DMSO. In such instances the use of carriers and/or other solvents might offer an alternative means to achieve the required sample concentration. Towards this end, we determined the maximum tolerated concentration (MTC) of several commonly used solvents and carriers in zebrafish embryos and larvae at various developmental stages. Solvents evaluated for this study included acetone, acetonitrile, butanone, dimethyl formamide, DMSO, ethanol, glycerol, isopropanol, methanol, polyethylene glycol (PEG-400), propylene glycol, and solketal, and carriers included albumin (BSA) and cyclodextrin (2-hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin, or HPBCD). This study resulted in the identification of polyethylene glycol (PEG400), propylene glycol, and methanol as solvents that were relatively well-tolerated over a range of developmental stages. In addition, our results showed that acetone was well-tolerated by embryos but not by larvae, and 1% cyclodextrin (HPBCD) was well-tolerated by both embryos and larvae, indicating the utility of this carrier for compound screening in zebrafish. However, given the relatively small differences (2–3 fold) between concentrations that are apparently safe and those that are clearly toxic, further studies – e.g. omics analyses –should be carried out to determine which cellular processes and signalling pathways are affected by any solvents and carriers that are used for small-molecule screens in zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC3474771  PMID: 23082109
11.  Identification and developmental expression of the full complement of Cytochrome P450 genes in Zebrafish 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:643.
Increasing use of zebrafish in drug discovery and mechanistic toxicology demands knowledge of cytochrome P450 (CYP) gene regulation and function. CYP enzymes catalyze oxidative transformation leading to activation or inactivation of many endogenous and exogenous chemicals, with consequences for normal physiology and disease processes. Many CYPs potentially have roles in developmental specification, and many chemicals that cause developmental abnormalities are substrates for CYPs. Here we identify and annotate the full suite of CYP genes in zebrafish, compare these to the human CYP gene complement, and determine the expression of CYP genes during normal development.
Zebrafish have a total of 94 CYP genes, distributed among 18 gene families found also in mammals. There are 32 genes in CYP families 5 to 51, most of which are direct orthologs of human CYPs that are involved in endogenous functions including synthesis or inactivation of regulatory molecules. The high degree of sequence similarity suggests conservation of enzyme activities for these CYPs, confirmed in reports for some steroidogenic enzymes (e.g. CYP19, aromatase; CYP11A, P450scc; CYP17, steroid 17a-hydroxylase), and the CYP26 retinoic acid hydroxylases. Complexity is much greater in gene families 1, 2, and 3, which include CYPs prominent in metabolism of drugs and pollutants, as well as of endogenous substrates. There are orthologous relationships for some CYP1 s and some CYP3 s between zebrafish and human. In contrast, zebrafish have 47 CYP2 genes, compared to 16 in human, with only two (CYP2R1 and CYP2U1) recognized as orthologous based on sequence. Analysis of shared synteny identified CYP2 gene clusters evolutionarily related to mammalian CYP2 s, as well as unique clusters.
Transcript profiling by microarray and quantitative PCR revealed that the majority of zebrafish CYP genes are expressed in embryos, with waves of expression of different sets of genes over the course of development. Transcripts of some CYP occur also in oocytes. The results provide a foundation for the use of zebrafish as a model in toxicological, pharmacological and chemical disease research.
PMCID: PMC3012610  PMID: 21087487
12.  Zebrafish as a model for normal and malignant hematopoiesis 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2011;4(4):433-438.
Zebrafish studies in the past two decades have made major contributions to our understanding of hematopoiesis and its associated disorders. The zebrafish has proven to be a powerful organism for studies in this area owing to its amenability to large-scale genetic and chemical screening. In addition, the externally fertilized and transparent embryos allow convenient genetic manipulation and in vivo imaging of normal and aberrant hematopoiesis. This review discusses available methods for studying hematopoiesis in zebrafish, summarizes key recent advances in this area, and highlights the current and potential contributions of zebrafish to the discovery and development of drugs to treat human blood disorders.
PMCID: PMC3124047  PMID: 21708900
13.  Advances in zebrafish chemical screening technologies 
Future medicinal chemistry  2012;4(14):1811-1822.
Due to several inherent advantages, zebrafish are being utilized in increasingly sophisticated screens to assess the physiological effects of chemical compounds directly in living vertebrate organisms. Diverse screening platforms showcase these advantages. Morphological assays encompassing basic qualitative observations to automated imaging, manipulation, and data-processing systems provide whole organism to subcellular levels of detail. Behavioral screens extend chemical screening to the level of complex systems. In addition, zebrafish-based disease models provide a means of identifying new potential therapeutic strategies. Automated systems for handling/sorting, high-resolution imaging and quantitative data collection have significantly increased throughput in recent years. These advances will make it easier to capture multiple streams of information from a given sample and facilitate integration of zebrafish at the earliest stages of the drug-discovery process, providing potential solutions to current drug-development bottlenecks. Here we outline advances that have been made within the growing field of zebrafish chemical screening.
PMCID: PMC3566566  PMID: 23043478
14.  SHIRAZ: an automated histology image annotation system for zebrafish phenomics 
Multimedia Tools and Applications  2010;51(2):401-440.
Histological characterization is used in clinical and research contexts as a highly sensitive method for detecting the morphological features of disease and abnormal gene function. Histology has recently been accepted as a phenotyping method for the forthcoming Zebrafish Phenome Project, a large-scale community effort to characterize the morphological, physiological, and behavioral phenotypes resulting from the mutations in all known genes in the zebrafish genome. In support of this project, we present a novel content-based image retrieval system for the automated annotation of images containing histological abnormalities in the developing eye of the larval zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC3066164  PMID: 21461317
Automatic image annotation; High-throughput phenotyping; Information-based similarity metrics; Computational symmetry
15.  In situ hybridization assay-based small molecule screening in zebrafish 
In vitro biochemical and cell-based small molecule screens have been widely used to identify compounds that target specific signaling pathways. But the identified compounds frequently fail at the animal testing stage, largely due to the in vivo absorption, metabolism and toxicity of chemicals. Zebrafish has recently emerged as a vertebrate whole organism model for small molecule screening. The in vivo bioactivity and specificity of compounds are examined from the very beginning of zebrafish screens. In addition, zebrafish is suitable for chemical screens at a large scale similar to cellular assays. This protocol describes an approach for in situ hybridization (ISH)-based chemical screening in zebrafish, which, in principle, can be used to screen any gene product. The described protocol has been used to identify small molecules affecting specific molecular pathways and biological processes. It can also be adapted to zebrafish screens with different readouts.
PMCID: PMC3447532  PMID: 23001521
zebrafish; in situ hybridization; small molecule screen; drug discovery; in vivo
16.  Evaluation of the pathogenesis and treatment of Mycobacterium marinum infection in zebrafish 
Nature protocols  2013;8(6):1114-1124.
Mycobacterium marinum infected zebrafish are used to study tuberculosis pathogenesis, as well as for antitubercular drug discovery. The small size of zebrafish larvae coupled with their optical transparency allows for rapid analysis of bacterial burdens and host survival in response to genetic and pharmacological manipulations of both mycobacteria and host. Automated fluorescence microscopy and automated plate fluorimetry (APF) are coupled with facile husbandry to facilitate large-scale, repeated analysis of individual infected fish. Both methods allow for in vivo screening of chemical libraries, requiring only 0.1 μmol of drug per fish to assess efficacy; they also permit a more detailed evaluation of the individual stages of tuberculosis pathogenesis. Here we describe a 16-h protocol spanning 22 d, in which zebrafish larvae are infected via the two primary injection sites, the hindbrain ventricle and caudal vein; this is followed by the high-throughput evaluation of pathogenesis and antimicrobial efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3919459  PMID: 23680983
17.  Diverse Mechanisms of Antiepileptic Drugs in the Development Pipeline 
Epilepsy research  2006;69(3):273-294.
There is a remarkable array of new chemical entities in the current antiepileptic drug (AED) development pipeline. In some cases, the compounds were synthesized in an attempt improve upon the activity of marketed AEDs. In other cases, the discovery of antiepileptic potential was largely serendipitous. Entry into the pipeline begins with the demonstration of activity in one or more animal screening models. Results from testing in a panel of such models provide a basis to differentiate agents and may offer clues as to the mechanism. Target activity may then be defined through cell-based studies, often years after the initial identification of activity. Some pipeline compounds are believed to act through conventional targets, whereas others are structurally novel and may act by novel mechanisms. Follow-on agents include the levetiracetam analogs brivaracetam and seletracetam that act as SV2A-ligands; the valproate-like agents valrocemide, valnoctamide, propylisopropyl acetamide, and isovaleramide; the felbamate analog flurofelbamate, a dicarbamate, and the unrelated carbamate RWJ-333369; the oxcarbazepine analog licarbazepine, which probably acts as a use-dependent sodium channel blockers, and its prodrug acetate BIA 2-093; and various selective partial benzodiazepine receptor agonists, including ELB139, which is a positive allosteric modulator of α3-containing GABAA receptors. A variety of AEDs that may act through novel targets are also in clinical development: lacosamide, a functionalized amino acid; talampanel, a 2,3-benzodiazepine selective noncompetitive AMPA receptor antagonist; NS1209, a competitive AMPA receptor antagonist; ganaxolone, a neuroactive steroid that acts as a positive modulator of GABAA receptors; retigabine, a KCNQ potassium channel opener with activity as a GABAA receptor positive modulator; the benzanilide KCNQ potassium channel opener ICA-27243 that is more selective than retigabine; and rufinamide, a triazole of unknown mechanism.
PMCID: PMC1562526  PMID: 16621450
antiepileptic drug; drug discovery; epilepsy models; maximal electroshock test; pentylenetetrazol test; kindling model
18.  Integration of Microfractionation, qNMR and Zebrafish Screening for the In Vivo Bioassay-Guided Isolation and Quantitative Bioactivity Analysis of Natural Products 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64006.
Natural products (NPs) are an attractive source of chemical diversity for small-molecule drug discovery. Several challenges nevertheless persist with respect to NP discovery, including the time and effort required for bioassay-guided isolation of bioactive NPs, and the limited biomedical relevance to date of in vitro bioassays used in this context. With regard to bioassays, zebrafish have recently emerged as an effective model system for chemical biology, allowing in vivo high-content screens that are compatible with microgram amounts of compound. For the deconvolution of the complex extracts into their individual constituents, recent progress has been achieved on several fronts as analytical techniques now enable the rapid microfractionation of extracts, and microflow NMR methods have developed to the point of allowing the identification of microgram amounts of NPs. Here we combine advanced analytical methods with high-content screening in zebrafish to create an integrated platform for microgram-scale, in vivo NP discovery. We use this platform for the bioassay-guided fractionation of an East African medicinal plant, Rhynchosia viscosa, resulting in the identification of both known and novel isoflavone derivatives with anti-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory activity. Quantitative microflow NMR is used both to determine the structure of bioactive compounds and to quantify them for direct dose-response experiments at the microgram scale. The key advantages of this approach are (1) the microgram scale at which both biological and analytical experiments can be performed, (2) the speed and the rationality of the bioassay-guided fractionation – generic for NP extracts of diverse origin – that requires only limited sample-specific optimization and (3) the use of microflow NMR for quantification, enabling the identification and dose-response experiments with only tens of micrograms of each compound. This study demonstrates that a complete in vivo bioassay-guided fractionation can be performed with only 20 mg of NP extract within a few days.
PMCID: PMC3660303  PMID: 23700445
19.  Strain dependent gene expression and neurochemical levels in the brain of zebrafish: Focus on a few alcohol related targets 
Physiology & behavior  2012;107(5):773-780.
The zebrafish is becoming increasingly popular in behavior genetics because it may allow one to conduct large scale mutation and drug screens facilitating the discovery of mechanisms of complex traits. Strain differences in adult zebrafish behavior have already been reported, which may have important implications in neurobehavioral genetics. For example, we have found the AB and SF strains to differ in their behavioral responses to both acute and chronic alcohol exposure. In the current study, we further characterize these strains using semi-quantitative RT-PCR to measure the expression of ten selected genes and HPLC to measure the levels of nine neurochemicals. We chose the target genes and neurochemicals based upon their potential involvement in alcohol and other drugs of abuse related mechanisms. We quantified the expression of the genes encoding D1-R, D2a-R, D4a-R dopamine receptors, GABAA-R, GABAB-R1, GAD1, MAO, NMDA-R (NR2D subunit), 5HT-R1bd and SLC6 a4a. We found the gene encoding D1 dopamine receptor over-expressed and the genes encoding GABAB1 receptor and solute family carrier protein 6 (SLC6) 4a under-expressed in SF compared to AB. We also found the level of all (dopamine, DOPAC, Serotonin, GABA, Glutamate, Glycine, Aspartate, Taurine) but one (5HIAA) neurochemicals tested decreased in SF as compared to AB. These results, combined with previously identified behavioral differences between the AB and SF strains, demonstrate the importance of strain characterization in zebrafish. They now also allow formulation of working hypotheses about possible mechanisms underlying the differential effects of acute and chronic alcohol treatment on these two zebrafish strains.
PMCID: PMC3368073  PMID: 22313674
gene expression; neurotransmitters; RT-PCR; HPLC; strain differences; zebrafish
20.  Heart Valve Development 
Circulation research  2004;95(5):459-470.
During the past decade, single gene disruption in mice and large-scale mutagenesis screens in zebrafish have elucidated many fundamental genetic pathways that govern early heart patterning and differentiation. Specifically, a number of genes have been revealed serendipitously to play important and selective roles in cardiac valve development. These initially surprising results have now converged on a finite number of signaling pathways that regulate endothelial proliferation and differentiation in developing and postnatal heart valves. This review highlights the roles of the most well-established ligands and signaling pathways, including VEGF, NFATc1, Notch, Wnt/β-catenin, BMP/TGF-β, ErbB, and NF1/Ras. Based on the interactions among and relative timing of these pathways, a signaling network model for heart valve development is proposed.
PMCID: PMC2810618  PMID: 15345668
heart development; heart valves; valvular heart disease; NFAT; VEGF; TGF-β
21.  Identification of Novel Inhibitors of Dietary Lipid Absorption Using Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12386.
Pharmacological inhibition of dietary lipid absorption induces favorable changes in serum lipoprotein levels in patients that are at risk for cardiovascular disease and is considered an adjuvant or alternative treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins). Here we demonstrate the feasibility of identifying novel inhibitors of intestinal lipid absorption using the zebrafish system. A pilot screen of an unbiased chemical library identified novel compounds that inhibited processing of fluorescent lipid analogues in live zebrafish larvae. Secondary assays identified those compounds suitable for testing in mammals and provided insight into mechanism of action, which for several compounds could be distinguished from ezetimibe, a drug used to inhibit cholesterol absorption in humans that broadly inhibited lipid absorption in zebrafish larvae. These findings support the utility of zebrafish screening assays to identify novel compounds that target complex physiological processes.
PMCID: PMC2928291  PMID: 20811635
22.  Rapid behavior—based identification of neuroactive small molecules in the zebrafish 
Nature chemical biology  2010;6(3):231-237.
Neuroactive small molecules are indispensable tools for treating mental illnesses and dissecting nervous system function. However, it has been difficult to discover novel neuroactive drugs. Here, we describe a high—throughput (HT) behavior—based approach to neuroactive small molecule discovery in the zebrafish. We use automated screening assays to evaluate thousands of chemical compounds and find that diverse classes of neuroactive molecules cause distinct patterns of behavior. These `behavioral barcodes' can be used to rapidly identify novel psychotropic chemicals and to predict their molecular targets. For example, we identify novel acetylcholinesterase and monoamine oxidase inhibitors using phenotypic comparisons and computational techniques. By combining HT screening technologies with behavioral phenotyping in vivo, behavior—based chemical screens may accelerate the pace of neuroactive drug discovery and provide small—molecule tools for understanding vertebrate behavior.
PMCID: PMC2834185  PMID: 20081854
23.  Zebrafish Bioassay-Guided Natural Product Discovery: Isolation of Angiogenesis Inhibitors from East African Medicinal Plants 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e14694.
Natural products represent a significant reservoir of unexplored chemical diversity for early-stage drug discovery. The identification of lead compounds of natural origin would benefit from therapeutically relevant bioassays capable of facilitating the isolation of bioactive molecules from multi-constituent extracts. Towards this end, we developed an in vivo bioassay-guided isolation approach for natural product discovery that combines bioactivity screening in zebrafish embryos with rapid fractionation by analytical thin-layer chromatography (TLC) and initial structural elucidation by high-resolution electrospray mass spectrometry (HRESIMS). Bioactivity screening of East African medicinal plant extracts using fli-1:EGFP transgenic zebrafish embryos identified Oxygonum sinuatum and Plectranthus barbatus as inhibiting vascular development. Zebrafish bioassay-guided fractionation identified the active components of these plants as emodin, an inhibitor of the protein kinase CK2, and coleon A lactone, a rare abietane diterpenoid with no previously described bioactivity. Both emodin and coleon A lactone inhibited mammalian endothelial cell proliferation, migration, and tube formation in vitro, as well as angiogenesis in the chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. These results suggest that the combination of zebrafish bioassays with analytical chromatography methods is an effective strategy for the rapid identification of bioactive natural products.
PMCID: PMC3040759  PMID: 21379387
24.  Housing Conditions Differentially Affect Physiological and Behavioural Stress Responses of Zebrafish, as well as the Response to Anxiolytics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34992.
Zebrafish are a widely utilised animal model in developmental genetics, and owing to recent advances in our understanding of zebrafish behaviour, their utility as a comparative model in behavioural neuroscience is beginning to be realised. One widely reported behavioural measure is the novel tank-diving assay, which has been often cited as a test of anxiety and stress reactivity. Despite its wide utilisation, and various validations against anxiolytic drugs, reporting of pre-test housing has been sparse in the literature. As zebrafish are a shoaling species, we predicted that housing environment would affect their stress reactivity and, as such, their response in the tank-diving procedure. In our first experiment, we tested various aspects of housing (large groups, large groups with no contact, paired, visual contact only, olfactory contact only) and found that the tank diving response was mediated by visual contact with conspecifics. We also tested the basal cortisol levels of group and individually housed fish, and found that individually housed individuals have lower basal cortisol levels. In our second experiment we found ethanol appeared to have an anxiolytic effect with individually housed fish but not those that were group housed. In our final experiment, we examined the effects of changing the fishes' water prior to tank diving as an additional acclimation procedure. We found that this had no effect on individually housed fish, but appeared to affect the typical tank diving responses of the group housed individuals. In conclusion, we demonstrate that housing represents an important factor in obtaining reliable data from this methodology, and should be considered by researchers interested in comparative models of anxiety in zebrafish in order to refine their approach and to increase the power in their experiments.
PMCID: PMC3324417  PMID: 22509375
25.  Serendipity in anticancer drug discovery 
It was found that the discovery of 5.8% (84/1437) of all drugs on the market involved serendipity. Of these drugs, 31 (2.2%) were discovered following an incident in the laboratory and 53 (3.7%) were discovered in a clinical setting. In addition, 263 (18.3%) of the pharmaceuticals in clinical use today are chemical derivatives of the drugs discovered with the aid of serendipity. Therefore, in total, 24.1% (347/1437) of marketed drugs can be directly traced to serendipitous events confirming the importance of this elusive phenomenon. In the case of anticancer drugs, 35.2% (31/88) can be attributed to a serendipitous event, which is somewhat larger than for all drugs. The therapeutic field that has benefited the most from serendipity are central nervous system active drugs reflecting the difficulty in designing compounds to pass the blood-brain-barrier and the lack of laboratory-based assays for many of the diseases of the mind.
PMCID: PMC3257347  PMID: 22247822
Anticancer drugs; Drug discovery and development; Serendipity

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