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1.  Zebrafish: a novel research tool for cardiac (patho)electrophysiology and ion channel disorders 
The zebrafish is a cold-blooded tropical freshwater teleost with two-chamber heart morphology. A major advantage of the zebrafish for heart studies is that the embryo is transparent, allowing for easy assessment of heart development, heart rate analysis and phenotypic characterization. Moreover, rapid and effective gene-specific knockdown can be achieved using morpholino oligonucleotides. Lastly, zebrafish are small in size, are easy to maintain and house, grow fast, and have large offspring size, making them a cost-efficient research model. Zebrafish embryonic and adult heart rates as well as action potential (AP) shape and duration and electrocardiogram morphology closely resemble those of humans. However, whether the zebrafish is truly an attractive alternative model for human cardiac electrophysiology depends on the presence and gating properties of the various ion channels in the zebrafish heart, but studies into the latter are as yet limited. The rapid component of the delayed rectifier K+ current (IKr) remains the best characterized and validated ion current in zebrafish myocytes, and zebrafish may represent a valuable model to investigate human IKr channel-related disease, including long QT syndrome. Arguments against the use of zebrafish as model for human cardiac (patho)electrophysiology include its cold-bloodedness and two-chamber heart morphology, absence of t-tubuli, sarcoplamatic reticulum function, and a different profile of various depolarizing and repolarizing ion channels, including a limited Na+ current density. Based on the currently available literature, we propose that zebrafish may constitute a relevant research model for investigating ion channel disorders associated with abnormal repolarization, but may be less suitable for studying depolarization disorders or Ca2+-modulated arrhythmias.
PMCID: PMC3429032  PMID: 22934012
action potential; arrhythmia; cardiac electrophysiology; ion channel; ion channelopathy; patch-clamp; zebrafish
2.  The HDAC Inhibitor TSA Ameliorates a Zebrafish Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 
PLoS Currents  2013;
Zebrafish are an excellent model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In particular, zebrafish provide a system for rapid, easy, and low-cost screening of small molecules that can ameliorate muscle damage in dystrophic larvae. Here we identify an optimal anti-sense morpholino cocktail that robustly knocks down zebrafish Dystrophin (dmd-MO). We use two approaches, muscle birefringence and muscle actin expression, to quantify muscle damage and show that the dmd-MO dystrophic phenotype closely resembles the zebrafish dmd mutant phenotype. We then show that the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor TSA, which has been shown to ameliorate the mdx mouse Duchenne model, can rescue muscle fiber damage in both dmd-MO and dmd mutant larvae. Our study identifies optimal morpholino and phenotypic scoring approaches for dystrophic zebrafish, further enhancing the zebrafish dmd model for rapid and cost-effective small molecule screening.
PMCID: PMC3870918  PMID: 24459606
3.  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
4.  Quantifying Cardiac Functions in Embryonic and Adult Zebrafish 
Zebrafish embryos have been extensively used to study heart development and cardiac function, mainly due to the unique embryology and genetics of this model organism. Since most human heart disease occurs during adulthood, adult zebrafish models of heart disease are being created to dissect mechanisms of the disease and discover novel therapies. However, due to its small heart size, the use of cardiac functional assays in the adult zebrafish has been limited. To address this bottleneck, the transparent fish line casper;Tg(cmlc2:nuDsRed) that has a red fluorescent heart can be used to document beating hearts in vivo and to quantify cardiac functions in adult zebrafish. Here, we describe our methods for quantifying shortening fraction and heart rate in embryonic zebrafish, as well as in the juvenile and adult casper;Tg(cmlc2:nuDsRed) fish. In addition, we describe the red blood cell flow rate assay that can be used to reflect cardiac function indirectly in zebrafish at any stage.
PMCID: PMC3762588  PMID: 22222517
Zebrafish; Physiology; Shortening fraction; Heart rate; Flow rate
5.  Towards a Comprehensive Catalog of Zebrafish Behavior 1.0 and Beyond 
Zebrafish  2013;10(1):70-86.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are rapidly gaining popularity in translational neuroscience and behavioral research. Physiological similarity to mammals, ease of genetic manipulations, sensitivity to pharmacological and genetic factors, robust behavior, low cost, and potential for high-throughput screening contribute to the growing utility of zebrafish models in this field. Understanding zebrafish behavioral phenotypes provides important insights into neural pathways, physiological biomarkers, and genetic underpinnings of normal and pathological brain function. Novel zebrafish paradigms continue to appear with an encouraging pace, thus necessitating a consistent terminology and improved understanding of the behavioral repertoire. What can zebrafish ‘do’, and how does their altered brain function translate into behavioral actions? To help address these questions, we have developed a detailed catalog of zebrafish behaviors (Zebrafish Behavior Catalog, ZBC) that covers both larval and adult models. Representing a beginning of creating a more comprehensive ethogram of zebrafish behavior, this effort will improve interpretation of published findings, foster cross-species behavioral modeling, and encourage new groups to apply zebrafish neurobehavioral paradigms in their research. In addition, this glossary creates a framework for developing a zebrafish neurobehavioral ontology, ultimately to become part of a unified animal neurobehavioral ontology, which collectively will contribute to better integration of biological data within and across species.
PMCID: PMC3629777  PMID: 23590400
6.  Ultrasound Bio-Microscopic Image Segmentation for Evaluation of Zebrafish Cardiac Function 
Zebrafish can fully regenerate their myocardium after ventricular resection without evidence of scars. This extraordinary regenerative ability provides an excellent model system to study the activation of the regenerative potential for human heart tissue. In addition to the morphology, it is vital to understand the cardiac function of zebrafish. To characterize adult zebrafish cardiac function, an ultrasound biomicroscope (UBM) was customized for real-time imaging of the zebrafish heart (about 1 mm in diameter) at a resolution of around 37 µm. Moreover, we developed an image segmentation algorithm to track the cardiac boundary and measure the dynamic size of the zebrafish heart for further quantification of zebrafish cardiac function. The effectiveness and accuracy of the proposed segmentation algorithm were verified on a tissue-mimicking phantom and in vivo zebrafish echocardiography. The quantitative evaluation demonstrated that the accuracy of the proposed algorithm is comparable to the manual delineation by experts.
PMCID: PMC3750995  PMID: 23549532
7.  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
8.  Human cardiomyopathy mutations induce myocyte hyperplasia and activate hypertrophic pathways during cardiogenesis in zebrafish 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2011;4(3):400-410.
To assess the effects during cardiac development of mutations that cause human cardiomyopathy, we modeled a sarcomeric gene mutation in the embryonic zebrafish. We designed morpholino antisense oligonucleotides targeting the exon 13 splice donor site in the zebrafish cardiac troponin T (tnnt2) gene, in order to precisely recapitulate a human TNNT2 mutation that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a disease characterized by myocardial hypertrophy, myocyte and myofibrillar disarray, as well as an increased risk of sudden death. Similar to humans with HCM, the morphant zebrafish embryos displayed sarcomere disarray and there was a robust induction of myocardial hypertrophic pathways. Microarray analysis uncovered a number of shared transcriptional responses between this zebrafish model and a well-characterized mouse model of HCM. However, in contrast to adult hearts, these embryonic hearts developed cardiomyocyte hyperplasia in response to this genetic perturbation. The re-creation of a human disease-causing TNNT2 splice variant demonstrates that sarcomeric mutations can alter cardiomyocyte biology at the earliest stages of heart development with distinct effects from those observed in adult hearts despite shared transcriptional responses.
PMCID: PMC3097461  PMID: 21245263
9.  In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio 
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo, and can be genetically manipulated.1 These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
PMCID: PMC3856313  PMID: 23995499
Molecular Biology; Issue 78; Genetics; Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Developmental Biology; Biochemistry; Anatomy; Physiology; Bioengineering; Genomics; Medical; zebrafish; in vivo; morpholino; human disease modeling; transcription; PCR; mRNA; DNA; Danio rerio; animal model
10.  Zebrafish as a model to study cardiac development and human cardiac disease 
Cardiovascular Research  2011;91(2):279-288.
Over the last decade, the zebrafish has entered the field of cardiovascular research as a new model organism. This is largely due to a number of highly successful small- and large-scale forward genetic screens, which have led to the identification of zebrafish mutants with cardiovascular defects. Genetic mapping and identification of the affected genes have resulted in novel insights into the molecular regulation of vertebrate cardiac development. More recently, the zebrafish has become an attractive model to study the effect of genetic variations identified in patients with cardiovascular defects by candidate gene or whole-genome-association studies. Thanks to an almost entirely sequenced genome and high conservation of gene function compared with humans, the zebrafish has proved highly informative to express and study human disease-related gene variants, providing novel insights into human cardiovascular disease mechanisms, and highlighting the suitability of the zebrafish as an excellent model to study human cardiovascular diseases. In this review, I discuss recent discoveries in the field of cardiac development and specific cases in which the zebrafish has been used to model human congenital and acquired cardiac diseases.
PMCID: PMC3125074  PMID: 21602174
Zebrafish; Heart; Development; Disease; Cardiomyopathy
11.  Miniaturized Embryo Array for Automated Trapping, Immobilization and Microperfusion of Zebrafish Embryos 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36630.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has recently emerged as a powerful experimental model in drug discovery and environmental toxicology. Drug discovery screens performed on zebrafish embryos mirror with a high level of accuracy the tests usually performed on mammalian animal models, and fish embryo toxicity assay (FET) is one of the most promising alternative approaches to acute ecotoxicity testing with adult fish. Notwithstanding this, automated in-situ analysis of zebrafish embryos is still deeply in its infancy. This is mostly due to the inherent limitations of conventional techniques and the fact that metazoan organisms are not easily susceptible to laboratory automation. In this work, we describe the development of an innovative miniaturized chip-based device for the in-situ analysis of zebrafish embryos. We present evidence that automatic, hydrodynamic positioning, trapping and long-term immobilization of single embryos inside the microfluidic chips can be combined with time-lapse imaging to provide real-time developmental analysis. Our platform, fabricated using biocompatible polymer molding technology, enables rapid trapping of embryos in low shear stress zones, uniform drug microperfusion and high-resolution imaging without the need of manual embryo handling at various developmental stages. The device provides a highly controllable fluidic microenvironment and post-analysis eleuthero-embryo stage recovery. Throughout the incubation, the position of individual embryos is registered. Importantly, we also for first time show that microfluidic embryo array technology can be effectively used for the analysis of anti-angiogenic compounds using transgenic zebrafish line (fli1a:EGFP). The work provides a new rationale for rapid and automated manipulation and analysis of developing zebrafish embryos at a large scale.
PMCID: PMC3351474  PMID: 22606275
12.  A high throughput live transparent animal bioassay to identify non-toxic small molecules or genes that regulate vertebrate fat metabolism for obesity drug development 
The alarming rise in the obesity epidemic and growing concern for the pathologic consequences of the metabolic syndrome warrant great need for development of obesity-related pharmacotherapeutics. The search for such therapeutics is severely limited by the slow throughput of animal models of obesity. Amenable to placement into a 96 well plate, zebrafish larvae have emerged as one of the highest throughput vertebrate model organisms for performing small molecule screens. A method for visually identifying non-toxic molecular effectors of fat metabolism using a live transparent vertebrate was developed. Given that increased levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) via deletion of CD38 have been shown to prevent high fat diet induced obesity in mice in a SIRT-1 dependent fashion we explored the possibility of directly applying NAD to zebrafish.
Zebrafish larvae were incubated with daily refreshing of nile red containing media starting from a developmental stage of equivalent fat content among siblings (3 days post-fertilization, dpf) and continuing with daily refreshing until 7 dpf.
PPAR activators, beta-adrenergic agonists, SIRT-1 activators, and nicotinic acid treatment all caused predicted changes in fat, cholesterol, and gene expression consistent with a high degree of evolutionary conservation of fat metabolism signal transduction extending from man to zebrafish larvae. All changes in fat content were visually quantifiable in a relative fashion using live zebrafish larvae nile red fluorescence microscopy. Resveratrol treatment caused the greatest and most consistent loss of fat content. The resveratrol tetramer Vaticanol B caused loss of fat equivalent in potency to resveratrol alone. Significantly, the direct administration of NAD decreased fat content in zebrafish. Results from knockdown of a zebrafish G-PCR ortholog previously determined to decrease fat content in C. elegans support that future GPR142 antagonists may be effective non-toxic anti-obesity therapeutics.
Owing to the apparently high level of evolutionary conservation of signal transduction pathways regulating lipid metabolism, the zebrafish can be useful for identifying non-toxic small molecules or pharmacological target gene products for developing molecular therapeutics for treating clinical obesity. Our results support the promising potential in applying NAD or resveratrol where the underlying target protein likely involves Sirtuin family member proteins. Furthermore data supports future studies focused on determining whether there is a high concentration window for resveratrol that is effective and non-toxic in high fat obesity murine models.
PMCID: PMC2531115  PMID: 18752667
13.  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
14.  The social zebrafish: Behavioral responses to conspecific, heterospecific, and computer animated fish 
Behavioural brain research  2008;191(1):77-87.
Zebrafish has been in the forefront of developmental biology and genetics, but only recently has interest in their behavior increased. Zebrafish are small and prolific, which lends this species to high throughput screening applications. A typical feature of zebrafish is its propensity to aggregate in groups, a behavior known as shoaling. Thus zebrafish has been proposed as a possible model organism appropriate for the analysis of the genetics of vertebrate social behavior. However, shoaling behavior is not well characterized in zebrafish. Here, using a recently developed software application, we first investigate how zebrafish respond to conspecific and heterospecific fish species that differ in coloration and/or shoaling tendencies. We found that zebrafish shoaled with their own species but not with two heterospecific species, one of which was a shoaling the other a non-shoaling species. In addition, we have started the analysis of visual stimuli that zebrafish may utilize to determine whether to shoal with a fish or not. We systematically modified the color, the location, the pattern, and the body shape of computer animated zebrafish images and presented them to experimental zebrafish. The subjects responded differentially to some of these stimuli showing preference for yellow and avoidance of elongated zebrafish images. Our results suggest that computerized stimulus presentation and automated behavioral quantification of zebrafish responses are feasible, which in turn implies that high throughput forward genetic mutation or drug screening will be possible in the analysis of social behavior with this model organism.
PMCID: PMC2486438  PMID: 18423643
behavioral phenotyping; Danio rerio; shoaling; social behavior; zebrafish
15.  Zebrafish models flex their muscles to shed light on muscular dystrophies 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;5(6):726-732.
Muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic disorders that specifically affect skeletal muscle and are characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakening. To develop therapies and treatments for these diseases, a better understanding of the molecular basis of muscular dystrophies is required. Thus, identification of causative genes mutated in specific disorders and the study of relevant animal models are imperative. Zebrafish genetic models of human muscle disorders often closely resemble disease pathogenesis, and the optical clarity of zebrafish embryos and larvae enables visualization of dynamic molecular processes in vivo. As an adjunct tool, morpholino studies provide insight into the molecular function of genes and allow rapid assessment of candidate genes for human muscular dystrophies. This unique set of attributes makes the zebrafish model system particularly valuable for the study of muscle diseases. This review discusses how recent research using zebrafish has shed light on the pathological basis of muscular dystrophies, with particular focus on the muscle cell membrane and the linkage between the myofibre cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix.
PMCID: PMC3484855  PMID: 23115202
16.  The State of the Art of the Zebrafish Model for Toxicology and Toxicologic Pathology Research—Advantages and Current Limitations 
Toxicologic pathology  2003;31(Suppl):62-87.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is now the pre-eminent vertebrate model system for clarification of the roles of specific genes and signaling pathways in development. The zebrafish genome will be completely sequenced within the next 1–2 years. Together with the substantial historical database regarding basic developmental biology, toxicology, and gene transfer, the rich foundation of molecular genetic and genomic data makes zebrafish a powerful model system for clarifying mechanisms in toxicity. In contrast to the highly advanced knowledge base on molecular developmental genetics in zebrafish, our database regarding infectious and noninfectious diseases and pathologic lesions in zebrafish lags far behind the information available on most other domestic mammalian and avian species, particularly rodents. Currently, minimal data are available regarding spontaneous neoplasm rates or spontaneous aging lesions in any of the commonly used wild-type or mutant lines of zebrafish. Therefore, to fully utilize the potential of zebrafish as an animal model for understanding human development, disease, and toxicology we must greatly advance our knowledge on zebrafish diseases and pathology.
PMCID: PMC1909756  PMID: 12597434
Zebrafish; Danio rerio; genomics; molecular genetics; development; toxicologic pathology; carcinogenesis; toxicology
17.  A Guide to Analysis of Cardiac Phenotypes in the Zebrafish Embryo 
Methods in Cell Biology  2011;101:161-180.
The zebrafish is an ideal model organism for investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying cardiogenesis, due to the powerful combination of optical access to the embryonic heart and plentiful opportunities for genetic analysis. A continually increasing number of studies are uncovering mutations, morpholinos, and small molecules that cause striking cardiac defects and disrupt blood circulation in the zebrafish embryo. Such defects can result from a wide variety of origins including defects in the specification or differentiation of cardiac progenitor cells; errors in the morphogenesis of the heart tube, the cardiac chambers, or the atrioventricular canal or problems with establishing proper cardiac function. An extensive arsenal of techniques is available to distinguish between these possibilities and thereby decipher the roots of cardiac defects. In this chapter, we provide a guide to the experimental strategies that are particularly effective for the characterization of cardiac henotypes in the zebrafish embryo.
PMCID: PMC3292854  PMID: 21550443
18.  The Zebrafish- Danio rerio – Is a Useful Model for Measuring the Effects of Small-molecule Mitigators of Late Effects of Ionizing Irradiation 
In vivo (Athens, Greece)  2012;26(6):889-897.
Use of zebrafish models may decrease the cost of screening new irradiation protectors and mitigators.
Materials and Methods
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) models were tested for screening water-soluble radiation protectors and mitigators. Irradiation of embryos and monitoring survival, and measuring fibrosis of the caudal musculature of adults allowed for testing of acute and late effects, respectively.
Incubation of zebrafish embryos either before or after irradiation in ethyl pyruvate (1 mM) increased survival. Irradiation of adults to 15 to 75 Gy, delivered in single-fraction at 13 Gy/min, showed dose-dependent fibrosis at 30 days, quantitated as physiological decrease in swimming tail movement, and histopathological detection of collagen deposition in the dorsal musculature. Continuous administration of small-molecule radioprotector drugs in the water after irradiation reduced both acute and chronic injuries.
The zebrafish is cost-effective for screening new radiation countermeasures.
PMCID: PMC3775014  PMID: 23160669
Radiation fibrosis; antioxidant therapy; zebrafish
19.  Using the Zebrafish Lateral Line to Screen for Ototoxicity 
The zebrafish is a valuable model for studying hair cell development, structure, genetics, and behavior. Zebrafish and other aquatic vertebrates have hair cells on their body surface organized into a sensory system called the lateral line. These hair cells are highly accessible and easily visualized using fluorescent dyes. Morphological and functional similarities to mammalian hair cells of the inner ear make the zebrafish a powerful preparation for studying hair cell toxicity. The ototoxic potential of drugs has historically been uncovered by anecdotal reports that have led to more formal investigation. Currently, no standard screen for ototoxicity exists in drug development. Thus, for the vast majority of Food and Drug Association (FDA)-approved drugs, the ototoxic potential remains unknown. In this study, we used 5-day-old zebrafish larvae to screen a library of 1,040 FDA-approved drugs and bioactives (NINDS Custom Collection II) for ototoxic effects in hair cells of the lateral line. Hair cell nuclei were selectively labeled using a fluorescent vital dye. For the initial screen, fish were exposed to drugs from the library at a 100-μM concentration for 1 h in 96-well tissue culture plates. Hair cell viability was assessed in vivo using fluorescence microscopy. One thousand forty drugs were rapidly screened for ototoxic effects. Seven known ototoxic drugs included in the library, including neomycin and cisplatin, were positively identified using these methods, as proof of concept. Fourteen compounds without previously known ototoxicity were discovered to be selectively toxic to hair cells. Dose–response curves for all 21 ototoxic compounds were determined by quantifying hair cell survival as a function of drug concentration. Dose–response relationships in the mammalian inner ear for two of the compounds without known ototoxicity, pentamidine isethionate and propantheline bromide, were then examined using in vitro preparations of the adult mouse utricle. Significant dose-dependent hair cell loss in the mouse utricle was demonstrated for both compounds. This study represents an important step in validating the use of the zebrafish lateral line as a screening tool for the identification of potentially ototoxic drugs.
PMCID: PMC2504598  PMID: 18408970
hair cell; zebrafish; lateral line; drug screen; ototoxicity
20.  Novel Chemical Suppressors of Long QT Syndrome Identified by an in vivo Functional Screen 
Circulation  2010;123(1):23-30.
Genetic long QT (LQT) syndrome is a life-threatening disorder caused by mutations that result in prolongation of cardiac repolarization. Recent work has demonstrated that a zebrafish model of LQT syndrome faithfully recapitulates several features of human disease including prolongation of ventricular action potential duration (APD), spontaneous early after-depolarizations, and 2:1 atrioventricular (AV) block in early stages of development. Due to their transparency, small size, and absorption of small molecules from their environment, zebrafish are amenable to high throughput chemical screens. We describe a small molecule screen using the zebrafish KCNH2 mutant breakdance to identify compounds that can rescue the LQT type 2 phenotype.
Methods and Results
Zebrafish breakdance embryos were exposed to test compounds at 48 hours of development and scored for rescue of 2:1 AV block at 72 hours in a 96-well format. Only compounds that suppressed the LQT phenotype in three of three fish were considered hits. Screen compounds were obtained from commercially available small molecule libraries (Prestwick and Chembridge). Initial hits were confirmed with dose response testing and time course studies. Optical mapping using the voltage sensitive dye di-4 ANEPPS was performed to measure compound effects on cardiac APDs. Screening of 1200 small molecules resulted in the identification of flurandrenolide and 2-methoxy-N-(4-methylphenyl) benzamide (2-MMB) as compounds that reproducibly suppressed the LQT phenotype. Optical mapping confirmed that treatment with each compound caused shortening of ventricular APDs. Structure activity studies and steroid receptor knockdown suggest that flurandrenolide functions via the glucocorticoid signaling pathway.
Using a zebrafish model of LQT type 2 syndrome in a high throughput chemical screen, we have identified two compounds, flurandrenolide and the novel compound, 2-MMB, as small molecules that rescue the zebrafish LQTS 2 by shortening the ventricular action potential duration. We provide evidence that flurandrenolide functions via the glucocorticoid receptor mediated pathway. These two molecules, and future discoveries from this screen, should yield novel tools for the study of cardiac electrophysiology and may lead to novel therapeutics for human LQT patients.
PMCID: PMC3015011  PMID: 21098441
long QT syndrome; animal models of human disease; ion channels; chemical screening
21.  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
22.  In vivo natriuretic peptide reporter assay identifies chemical modifiers of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy signalling 
Cardiovascular Research  2011;93(3):463-470.
Despite increased understanding of the fundamental biology regulating cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and heart failure, it has been challenging to find novel chemical or genetic modifiers of these pathways. Traditional cell-based methods do not model the complexity of an intact cardiovascular system and mammalian models are not readily adaptable to chemical or genetic screens. Our objective was to create an in vivo model suitable for chemical and genetic screens for hypertrophy and heart failure modifiers
Methods and results
Using the developing zebrafish, we established that the cardiac natriuretic peptide genes (nppa and nppb), known markers of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and heart failure, were induced in the embryonic heart by pathological cardiac stimuli. This pathological induction was distinct from the developmental regulation of these genes. We created a luciferase-based transgenic reporter line that accurately modelled the pathological induction patterns of the zebrafish nppb gene. Utilizing this reporter line, we were able to show remarkable conservation of pharmacological responses between the larval zebrafish heart and adult mammalian models.
By performing a focused screen of chemical agents, we were able to show a distinct response of a genetic model of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to the histone deacetylase inhibitor, Trichostatin A, and the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 inhibitor, U0126. We believe this in vivo reporter line will offer a unique approach to the identification of novel chemical or genetic regulators of myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure.
PMCID: PMC3410427  PMID: 22198505
Natriuretic peptides; Hypertrophy; Heart development; Heart failure; Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
23.  A Phenotypic Screen in Zebrafish Identifies a Novel Small-Molecule Inducer of Ectopic Tail Formation Suggestive of Alterations in Non-Canonical Wnt/PCP Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83293.
Zebrafish have recently emerged as an attractive model for the in vivo bioassay-guided isolation and characterization of pharmacologically active small molecules of natural origin. We carried out a zebrafish-based phenotypic screen of over 3000 plant-derived secondary metabolite extracts with the goal of identifying novel small-molecule modulators of the BMP and Wnt signaling pathways. One of the bioactive plant extracts identified in this screen – Jasminum gilgianum, an Oleaceae species native to Papua New Guinea – induced ectopic tails during zebrafish embryonic development. As ectopic tail formation occurs when BMP or non-canonical Wnt signaling is inhibited during the tail protrusion process, we suspected a constituent of this extract to act as a modulator of these pathways. A bioassay-guided isolation was carried out on the basis of this zebrafish phenotype, identifying para-coumaric acid methyl ester (pCAME) as the active compound. We then performed an in-depth phenotypic analysis of pCAME-treated zebrafish embryos, including a tissue-specific marker analysis of the secondary tails. We found pCAME to synergize with the BMP-inhibitors dorsomorphin and LDN-193189 in inducing ectopic tails, and causing convergence-extension defects in compound-treated embryos. These results indicate that pCAME may interfere with non-canonical Wnt signaling. Inhibition of Jnk, a downstream target of Wnt/PCP signaling (via morpholino antisense knockdown and pharmacological inhibition with the kinase inhibitor SP600125) phenocopied pCAME-treated embryos. However, immunoblotting experiments revealed pCAME to not directly inhibit Jnk-mediated phosphorylation of c-Jun, suggesting additional targets of SP600125, and/or other pathways, as possibly being involved in the ectopic tail formation activity of pCAME. Further investigation of pCAME’s mechanism of action will help determine this compound’s pharmacological utility.
PMCID: PMC3859651  PMID: 24349481
24.  Flexible microelectrode arrays to interface epicardial electrical signals with intracardial calcium transients in zebrafish hearts 
Biomedical Microdevices  2012;14(2):357-366.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is an emerging genetic model for regenerative medicine. In humans, myocardial infarction results in the irreversible loss of cardiomyocytes. However, zebrafish hearts fully regenerate after a 20% ventricular resection, without either scarring or arrhythmias. To study this cardiac regeneration, we developed implantable flexible multi-microelectrode membrane arrays that measure the epicardial electrocardiogram signals of zebrafish in real-time. The microelectrode electrical signals allowed for a high level of both temporal and spatial resolution (~20 μm), and the signal to noise ratio of the epicardial ECG was comparable to that of surface electrode ECG (7.1 dB vs. 7.4 dB, respectively). Processing and analysis of the signals from the microelectrode array demonstrated distinct ECG signals: namely, atrial conduction (P waves), ventricular contraction (QRS), and ventricular repolarization (QT interval). The electrical signals were in synchrony with optically measured Calcium concentration gradients in terms of d[Ca2+]/dt at both whole heart and tissue levels. These microelectrodes therefore provide a real-time analytical tool for monitoring conduction phenotypes of small vertebral animals with a high temporal and spatial resolution.
PMCID: PMC3322508  PMID: 22124886
Zebrafish hearts; Flexible electronics; ECG; Cardiac conduction; Calcium waves
25.  Disease Modeling in Zebrafish: Cancer and Immune Responses—A Report on a Workshop Held in Spoleto, Italy, July 20–22, 2009 
Zebrafish  2009;6(4):445-451.
The growing interest in using zebrafish for genetic and functional dissection of malignancy and infection was highlighted by the second international workshop on Zebrafish Models of Cancer and the Immune Response in Spoleto, Italy (July 20–22, 2009). The overarching theme of the state-of-the-art reports featured the unique suitability of zebrafish for in vivo monitoring of fundamental biologic and pathologic processes. For example, in vivo imaging was employed for the first demonstration of direct development of hematopoietic stem cells from hemogenic epithelium and for visualization of T-cell homing and interaction with thymic epithelial cells. In addition, in vivo monitoring was instrumental for developing disease models of solid tumors, leukemia, and of inflammatory conditions, and for assessing the efficacy of small molecule drugs under physiologic and pathologic conditions. The success of zebrafish small molecule screens was underscored by the identification of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) as an efficient inducer of stem cell expansion that led to the initiation of the first human trial on the efficacy of PGE2 in bone marrow transplantation. Further, zebrafish models of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis have been established that are now amenable to high-throughput in vivo drug screens, a much-needed development in the fight against drug-resistant microorganisms. The success of this workshop and the rapidly growing field of cancer and the immune response in zebrafish have spawned follow-up meetings in Boston (June 2010) and Edinburgh (2011).
PMCID: PMC2846593  PMID: 20047471

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