Zebrafish homologs of 16p11.2, a genomic region associated with brain disorders, are active during brain development, and include two deletion dosage sensor genes
ABSTRACT Deletion or duplication of one copy of the human 16p11.2 interval is tightly associated with impaired brain function, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), intellectual disability disorder (IDD) and other phenotypes, indicating the importance of gene dosage in this copy number variant region (CNV). The core of this CNV includes 25 genes; however, the number of genes that contribute to these phenotypes is not known. Furthermore, genes whose functional levels change with deletion or duplication (termed 'dosage sensors'), which can associate the CNV with pathologies, have not been identified in this region. Using the zebrafish as a tool, a set of 16p11.2 homologs was identified, primarily on chromosomes 3 and 12. Use of 11 phenotypic assays, spanning the first 5 days of development, demonstrated that this set of genes is highly active, such that 21 out of the 22 homologs tested showed loss-of-function phenotypes. Most genes in this region were required for nervous system development - impacting brain morphology, eye development, axonal density or organization, and motor response. In general, human genes were able to substitute for the fish homolog, demonstrating orthology and suggesting conserved molecular pathways. In a screen for 16p11.2 genes whose function is sensitive to hemizygosity, the aldolase a (aldoaa) and kinesin family member 22 (kif22) genes were identified as giving clear phenotypes when RNA levels were reduced by ~50%, suggesting that these genes are deletion dosage sensors. This study leads to two major findings. The first is that the 16p11.2 region comprises a highly active set of genes, which could present a large genetic target and might explain why multiple brain function, and other, phenotypes are associated with this interval. The second major finding is that there are (at least) two genes with deletion dosage sensor properties among the 16p11.2 set, and these could link this CNV to brain disorders such as ASD and IDD.
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ABSTRACT: Abstract Despite the broad repertoire of loss of function (LOF) tools available for use in the zebrafish, there remains a need for a simple and rapid method that can inhibit expression of genes at later stages. RNAi would fulfill that role, and a previous report (Dong et al. 2009) provided encouraging data. The goal of this study was to further address the ability of expressed shRNAs to inhibit gene expression. This included quantifying RNA knockdown, testing specificity of shRNA effects, and determining whether tissue-specific LOF could be achieved. Using an F0 transgenic approach, this report demonstrates that for two genes, wnt5b and zDisc1, each with described mutant and morphant phenotypes, shRNAs efficiently decrease endogenous RNA levels. Phenotypes elicited by shRNA resemble those of mutants and morphants, and are reversed by expression of cognate RNA, further demonstrating specificity. Tissue-specific expression of zDisc1 shRNAs in F0 transgenics demonstrates that conditional LOF can be readily obtained. These results suggest that shRNA expression presents a viable approach for rapid inhibition of zebrafish gene expression.Zebrafish 07/2012; 9(3):97-107. DOI:10.1089/zeb.2012.0770 · 1.77 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Psychiatric disorders are a diverse set of diseases that affect all aspects of mental function including social interaction, thinking, feeling, and mood. Although psychiatric disorders place a large economic burden on society, the drugs available to treat them are often palliative with variable efficacy and intolerable side-effects. The development of novel drugs has been hindered by a lack of knowledge about the etiology of these diseases. It is thus necessary to further investigate psychiatric disorders using a combination of human molecular genetics, gene-by-environment studies, in vitro pharmacological and biochemistry experiments, animal models, and investigation of the non-biological basis of these diseases, such as environmental effects. Many psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation, and schizophrenia can be triggered by alterations to neural development. The zebrafish is a popular model for developmental biology that is increasingly used to study human disease. Recent work has extended this approach to examine psychiatric disorders as well. However, since psychiatric disorders affect complex mental functions that might be human specific, it is not possible to fully model them in fish. In this review, I will propose that the suitability of zebrafish for developmental studies, and the genetic tools available to manipulate them, provide a powerful model to study the roles of genes that are linked to psychiatric disorders during neural development. The relative speed and ease of conducting experiments in zebrafish can be used to address two areas of future research: the contribution of environmental factors to disease onset, and screening for novel therapeutic compounds.Frontiers in Neural Circuits 04/2013; 7:79. DOI:10.3389/fncir.2013.00079 · 2.95 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder with complex symptoms and unclear, multi-factorial pathogenesis. Animal (rodent) models of ASD-like behavior are extensively used to study genetics, circuitry and molecular mechanisms of ASD. The evolutionarily conserved nature of social behavior and its molecular pathways suggests that alternative experimental models can be developed to complement and enhance the existing rodent ASD paradigms. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is rapidly becoming a popular model organism in neuroscience and biological psychiatry to study brain function, model human brain disorders and explore their genetic or pharmacological modulation. Representing highly social animals, zebrafish emerge as a strong potential model organism to study normal and pathological social phenotypes, as well as several other ASD-like symptoms. Here, we discuss the developing utility of zebrafish in modeling ASD as a new emerging field in translational neuroscience and drug discovery.Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 11/2013; · 4.03 Impact Factor