Differences in inhibitory avoidance, cortisol and brain gene expression in TL and AB zebrafish

M Gorissen, R Manuel, T N M Pelgrim, W Mes, M J S de Wolf, J Zethof, G Flik, R van den Bos
Genes, Brain, and Behavior 2015, 14 (5): 428-38
Recently, we established an inhibitory avoidance paradigm in Tupfel Long-Fin (TL) zebrafish. Here, we compared task performance of TL fish and fish from the AB strain; another widely used strain and shown to differ genetically and behaviourally from TL fish. Whole-body cortisol and telencephalic gene expression related to stress, anxiety and fear were measured before and 2 h post-task. Inhibitory avoidance was assessed in a 3-day paradigm: fish learn to avoid swimming from a white to a black compartment where a 3V-shock is given: day 1 (first shock), day 2 (second shock) and day 3 (no shock, sampling). Tupfel Long-Fin fish rapidly learned to avoid the black compartment and showed an increase in avoidance-related spatial behaviour in the white compartment across days. In contrast, AB fish showed no inhibitory avoidance learning. AB fish had higher basal cortisol levels and expression levels of stress-axis related genes than TL fish. Tupfel Long-Fin fish showed post-task learning-related changes in cortisol and gene expression levels, but these responses were not seen in AB fish. We conclude that AB fish show higher cortisol levels and no inhibitory avoidance than TL fish. The differential learning responses of these Danio strains may unmask genetically defined risks for stress-related disorders.

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