Zebrafish as a neurotoxicological model

Elwood Linney, Lucia Upchurch, Susan Donerly
Neurotoxicology and Teratology 2004, 26 (6): 709-18
At a time when common regulatory pathways are being identified in several different species and genomics is beginning to allow comparisons of genes, how they are arranged on chromosomes and how they are regulated, zebrafish has emerged as a valuable and complementary vertebrate model. Some of the characteristics that prove of value are described and illustrated. Fluorescent transgenic lines of zebrafish embryos are presented for time-line studies with neurotoxicants. While genetic knockout technology has yet to be developed for the model, the anti-sense, morpholino approach allows for knockdown of expression of genes for the 3 day, embryonic period. This can provide for phenocopies of mutant genes for those genes essential to embryonic development or it can provide for a limited inhibition of gene expression that allows subsequent development of the fish. With the zebrafish genomic sequencing effort, microarray technology is now developing for the model system. These resources and technologies allow one to challenge the system with toxicants, and to view the immediate effects of the toxicants with transgenic embryos that fluoresce in part or all of the nervous system. Behavioral and learning protocols have been developed for the organism so that early exposures can be assayed for effects upon adult fish. Microarray technology should allow for one to identify specific genes and pathways affected by a neurotoxicant. In the future, these approaches should provide a working protocol for exploring molecular mechanisms of neurotoxicants. This type of complementary approach should then allow for more efficient examination and testing of mechanisms in mammalian models.

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