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1.  Regular heartbeat rhythm at the heartbeat initiation stage is essential for normal cardiogenesis at low temperature 
Background
The development of blood flow in the heart is crucial for heart function and embryonic survival. Recent studies have revealed the importance of the extracellular matrix and the mechanical stress applied to the valve cushion that controls blood flow to the formation of the cardiac valve during embryogenesis. However, the events that trigger such valve formation and mechanical stress, and their temperature dependence have not been explained completely. Medaka (Oryzias latipes) inhabits a wide range of East Asia and adapts to a wide range of climates. We used medaka embryos from different genomic backgrounds and analyzed heartbeat characteristics including back-and-forth blood flow and bradyarrhythmia in embryos incubated at low temperature. We also used high-speed imaging analysis to examine the heartbeat of these animals after transient exposure to low temperature.
Results
Embryos of the Hd-rR medaka strain exhibited back-and-forth blood flow in the heart (blood regurgitation) after incubation at 15°C. This regurgitation was induced by exposure to low temperature around the heartbeat initiation period and was related to abnormalities in the maintenance or pattern of contraction of the atrium or the atrioventricular canal. The Odate strain from the northern Japanese group exhibited normal blood flow after incubation at 15°C. High-speed time-lapse analysis of the heartbeat revealed that bradyarrhythmia occurred only in Hd-rR embryos incubated at 15°C. The coefficient of contraction, defined as the quotient of the length of the atrium at systole divided by its length at diastole, was not affected in either strain. The average heart rate after removing the effect of arrhythmia did not differ significantly between the two strains, suggesting that the mechanical stress of individual myocardial contractions and the total mechanical stress could be equivalent, regardless of the presence of arrhythmia or the heart rate. Test-cross experiments suggested that this circulation phenotype was caused by a single major genomic locus.
Conclusions
These results suggest that cardiogenesis at low temperature requires a constant heartbeat. Abnormal contraction rhythms at the stage of heartbeat initiation may cause regurgitation at later stages. From the evolutionary viewpoint, strains that exhibit normal cardiogenesis during development at low temperature inhabit northern environments.
doi:10.1186/1471-213X-14-12
PMCID: PMC3936829  PMID: 24564206
Heartbeat; Medaka; Blood regurgitation; Cold adaptation; Cardiogenesis
2.  A Comparative Analysis of Glomerulus Development in the Pronephros of Medaka and Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45286.
The glomerulus of the vertebrate kidney links the vasculature to the excretory system and produces the primary urine. It is a component of every single nephron in the complex mammalian metanephros and also in the primitive pronephros of fish and amphibian larvae. This systematic work highlights the benefits of using teleost models to understand the pronephric glomerulus development. The morphological processes forming the pronephric glomerulus are astoundingly different between medaka and zebrafish. (1) The glomerular primordium of medaka - unlike the one of zebrafish - exhibits a C-shaped epithelial layer. (2) The C-shaped primordium contains a characteristic balloon-like capillary, which is subsequently divided into several smaller capillaries. (3) In zebrafish, the bilateral pair of pronephric glomeruli is fused at the midline to form a glomerulus, while in medaka the two parts remain unmerged due to the interposition of the interglomerular mesangium. (4) Throughout pronephric development the interglomerular mesangial cells exhibit numerous cytoplasmic granules, which are reminiscent of renin-producing (juxtaglomerular) cells in the mammalian afferent arterioles. Our systematic analysis of medaka and zebrafish demonstrates that in fish, the morphogenesis of the pronephric glomerulus is not stereotypical. These differences need be taken into account in future analyses of medaka mutants with glomerulus defects.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045286
PMCID: PMC3445478  PMID: 23028906
3.  Allelic Expression Changes in Medaka (Oryzias latipes) Hybrids between Inbred Strains Derived from Genetically Distant Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36875.
Variations in allele expressions between genetically distant populations are one of the most important factors which affects their morphological and physiological variations. These variations are caused by natural mutations accumulated in their habitats. It has been reported that allelic expression differences in the hybrids of genetically distant populations are different from parental strains. In that case, there is a possibility that allelic expression changes lead to novel phenotypes in hybrids. Based on genomic information of the genetically distant populations, quantification and comparison of allelic expression changes make importance of regulatory sequences (cis-acting factors) or upstream regulatory factors (trans-acting modulators) for these changes clearer. In this study, we focused on two Medaka inbred strains, Hd-rR and HNI, derived from genetically distant populations and their hybrids. They are highly polymorphic and we can utilize whole-genome information. To analyze allelic expression changes, we established a method to quantify and compare allele-specific expressions of 11 genes between the parental strains and their reciprocal hybrids. In intestines of reciprocal hybrids, allelic expression was either similar or different in comparison with the parental strains. Total expressions in Hd-rR and HNI were tissue-dependent in the case of HPRT1, with high up-regulation of Hd-rR allele expression in liver. The proportion of genes with differential allelic expression in Medaka hybrids seems to be the same as that in other animals, despite the high SNP rate in the genomes of the two inbred strains. It is suggested that each tissue of the strain difference in trans-acting modulators is more important than polymorphisms in cis-regulatory sequences in producing the allelic expression changes in reciprocal hybrids.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036875
PMCID: PMC3349633  PMID: 22590630
4.  Dual control by a single gene of secondary sexual characters and mating preferences in medaka 
BMC Biology  2009;7:64.
Background
Animals utilize a wide variety of tactics to attract reproductive partners. Behavioral experiments often indicate an important role for visual cues in fish, but their molecular basis remains almost entirely unknown. Studies on model species (such as zebrafish and medaka) allow investigations into this fundamental question in behavioral and evolutionary biology.
Results
Through mate-choice experiences using several laboratory strains of various body colors, we successfully identified one medaka mutant (color interfere; ci) that is distinctly unattractive to reproductive partners. This unattractiveness seems to be due to reduced orange pigment cells (xanthophores) in the skin. The ci strain carries a mutation on the somatolactin alpha (SLa) gene, therefore we expected over-expression of SLa to make medaka hyper-attractive. Indeed, extremely strong mating preferences were detected in a choice between the ci and SLa-transgenic (Actb-SLa:GFP) medaka. Intriguingly, however, the strains showed opposite biases; that is, the mutant and transgenic medaka liked to mate with partners from their own strain, similar to becoming sexually isolated.
Conclusion
This study spotlighted SLa as a novel mate-choice gene in fish. In addition, these results are the first demonstration of a single gene that can pleiotropically and harmoniously change both secondary sexual characters and mating preferences. Although theoretical models have long suggested joint evolution of linked genes on a chromosome, a mutation on a gene-regulatory region (that is, switching on/off of a single gene) might be sufficient to trigger two 'runaway' processes in different directions to promote (sympatric) speciation.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-64
PMCID: PMC2761876  PMID: 19788724
5.  Medaka: a promising model animal for comparative population genomics 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:88.
Background
Within-species genome diversity has been best studied in humans. The international HapMap project has revealed a tremendous amount of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) among humans, many of which show signals of positive selection during human evolution. In most of the cases, however, functional differences between the alleles remain experimentally unverified due to the inherent difficulty of human genetic studies. It would therefore be highly useful to have a vertebrate model with the following characteristics: (1) high within-species genetic diversity, (2) a variety of gene-manipulation protocols already developed, and (3) a completely sequenced genome. Medaka (Oryzias latipes) and its congeneric species, tiny fresh-water teleosts distributed broadly in East and Southeast Asia, meet these criteria.
Findings
Using Oryzias species from 27 local populations, we conducted a simple screening of nonsynonymous SNPs for 11 genes with apparent orthology between medaka and humans. We found medaka SNPs for which the same sites in human orthologs are known to be highly differentiated among the HapMap populations. Importantly, some of these SNPs show signals of positive selection.
Conclusion
These results indicate that medaka is a promising model system for comparative population genomics exploring the functional and adaptive significance of allelic differentiations.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-88
PMCID: PMC2683866  PMID: 19426554
6.  Neurocytotoxic effects of iron-ions on the developing brain measured in vivo using medaka (Oryzias latipes), a vertebrate model 
Purpose: Exposure to heavy-ion radiation is considered a critical health risk on long-term space missions. The developing central nervous system (CNS) is a highly radiosensitive tissue; however, the biological effects of heavy-ion radiation, which are greater than those of low-linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, are not well studied, especially in vivo in intact organisms. Here, we examined the effects of iron-ions on the developing CNS using vertebrate organism, fish embryos of medaka (Oryzias latipes).
Materials and methods: Medaka embryos at developmental stage 28 were irradiated with iron-ions at various doses of 0-1.5 Gy. At 24 h after irradiation, radiation-induced apoptosis was examined using an acridine orange (AO) assay and histo-logically. To estimate the relative biological effectiveness (RBE), we quantified only characteristic AO-stained rosette-shaped apoptosis in the developing optic tectum (OT). At the time of hatching, morphological abnormalities in the irradiated brain were examined histologically.
Results: The dose-response curve utilizing an apoptotic index for the iron-ion irradiated embryos was much steeper than that for X-ray irradiated embryos, with RBE values of 3.7-4.2. Histological examinations of irradiated medaka brain at 24 h after irradiation showed AO-positive rosette-shaped clusters as aggregates of condensed nuclei, exhibiting a circular hole, mainly in the marginal area of the OT and in the retina. However, all of the irradiated embryos hatched normally without apparent histological abnormalities in their brains.
Conclusion: Our present study indicates that the medaka embryo is a useful model for evaluating neurocytotoxic effects on the developing CNS induced by exposure to heavy iron-ions relevant to the aerospace radiation environment.
doi:10.3109/09553002.2011.584944
PMCID: PMC3169016  PMID: 21770703
High-LET radiation; apoptosis; embryonic brain; medaka; relative biological effectiveness (RBE)

Results 1-6 (6)