Chengjin Zhang

North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (7)22.69 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Alcohol is a teratogen that has diverse effects on brain and craniofacial development, leading to a constellation of developmental disorders referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The molecular basis of ethanol insult remains poorly understood, as does the relationship between molecular and behavioral changes as a consequence of prenatal ethanol exposure. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to a range of ethanol concentrations (0.5-5.0%) during defined developmental stages, and examined for morphological phenotypes characteristic of FASD. Embryos were also analyzed by in situ hybridization for changes in expression of defined cell markers for neural cell types that are sonic hedgehog-dependent. We show that transient binge-like ethanol exposures during defined developmental stages, such as early gastrulation and early neurulation, result in a range of phenotypes and changes in expression of Shh-dependent genes. The severity of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) morphological phenotypes, such as microphthalmia, depends on the embryonic stage and concentration of alcohol exposure, as does diminution of retinal Pax6a or forebrain and hindbrain GAD1 gene expression. We also show that changes in eye and brain morphology correlate with changes in Pax6a and GAD1 gene expression. Our results therefore show that transient binge-like ethanol exposures in zebrafish embryos produce the stereotypical morphological phenotypes of FAS, with the severity of phenotypes depending on the developmental stage and alcohol concentration of exposure.
    Neurotoxicology and Teratology 06/2014; · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Cdx2 has been suggested to play an important role in Barrett's esophagus or intestinal metaplasia (IM) in the esophagus. To investigate whether transgenic overexpression of cdx1b, the functional equivalent of mammalian Cdx2 in zebrafish, may lead to IM of zebrafish esophageal squamous epithelium, a transgenic zebrafish system was developed by expressing cdx1b gene under the control of zebrafish keratin 5 promoter (krt5p). Gene expression in the esophageal squamous epithelium of wild-type and transgenic zebrafish was analyzed by Affymetrix microarray and confirmed by in situ hybridization. Morphology, mucin expression, cell proliferation, and apoptosis were analyzed by hematoxylin & eosin (HE) staining, Periodic acid Schiff (PAS) Alcian blue staining, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) immunohistochemical staining, and TUNEL assay as well. cdx1b was found to be overexpressed in the nuclei of esophageal squamous epithelial cells of the transgenic zebrafish. Ectopic expression of cdx1b disturbed the development of this epithelium in larval zebrafish and induced metaplastic changes in gene expression in the esophageal squamous epithelial cells of adult zebrafish, that is, up-regulation of intestinal differentiation markers and down-regulation of squamous differentiation markers. However, cdx1b failed to induce histological IM, or to modulate cell proliferation and apoptosis in the squamous epithelium of adult transgenic zebrafish.
    Zebrafish 05/2013; · 2.88 Impact Factor
  • Chengjin Zhang, Princess Ojiaku, Gregory J Cole
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Ethanol is a teratogen that affects numerous developmental processes in the nervous system, which includes development and survival of GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons. Possible molecular mechanisms accounting for ethanol's effects on nervous system development include perturbed fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) and Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling. In zebrafish, forebrain GABAergic neuron development is dependent on Fgf19 and Shh signaling. The present study was conducted to test the hypothesis that ethanol affects GABAergic and glutamatergic neuron development by disrupting Fgf, Shh, and agrin function. METHODS: Zebrafish embryos were exposed to varying concentrations of ethanol during a range of developmental stages, in the absence or presence of morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs) that disrupt agrin or Shh function. In situ hybridization was used to analyze glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD1) gene expression, as well as markers of glutamatergic neurons. RESULTS: Acute ethanol exposure results in marked reduction in GAD1 gene expression in forebrain and hindbrain, and reduction of glutamatergic neuronal markers in hindbrain. Subthreshold ethanol exposure, combined with agrin or Shh MO treatment, produces a similar diminution in expression of markers for GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons. Consistent with the ethanol effects on Fgf and Shh pathways, Fgf19, Fgf8, or Shh mRNA overexpression rescues ethanol-induced decreases in GAD1 and Atonal1a gene expression. CONCLUSIONS: These studies demonstrate that GABAergic and glutamatergic neuron development in zebrafish forebrain or cerebellum is sensitive to ethanol exposure, and provides additional evidence that a signaling pathway involving agrin, Fgfs and Shh may be a critical target of ethanol exposure during zebrafish embryogenesis. Birth Defects Research (Part A), © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Birth Defects Research Part A Clinical and Molecular Teratology 11/2012; · 2.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alcohol (ethanol) is a teratogen that adversely affects nervous system development in a wide range of animal species. In humans numerous congenital abnormalities arise as a result of fetal alcohol exposure, leading to a spectrum of disorders referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These abnormalities include craniofacial defects as well as neurological defects that affect a variety of behaviors. These human FASD phenotypes are reproduced in the rodent central nervous system (CNS) following prenatal ethanol exposure. While the study of ethanol effects on zebrafish development has been more limited, several studies have shown that different strains of zebrafish exhibit differential susceptibility to ethanol-induced cyclopia, as well as behavioral deficits. Molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of ethanol on CNS development also appear to be shared between rodent and zebrafish. Thus, zebrafish appear to recapitulate the observed effects of ethanol on human and mouse CNS development, indicating that zebrafish can serve as a complimentary developmental model system to study the molecular basis of FASD. Recent studies examining the effect of ethanol exposure on zebrafish nervous system development are reviewed, with an emphasis on attempts to elucidate possible molecular pathways that may be impacted by developmental ethanol exposure. Recent work from our laboratories supports a role for perturbed extracellular matrix function in the pathology of ethanol exposure during zebrafish CNS development. The use of the zebrafish model to assess the effects of ethanol exposure on adult nervous system function as manifested by changes in zebrafish behavior is also discussed.
    International review of cell and molecular biology 01/2012; 299:255-315. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alcohol (ethanol) is a teratogen known to affect the developing eyes, face, and brain. Among the ocular defects in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are microphthalmia and optic nerve hypoplasia. Employing zebrafish as an FASD model provides an excellent system to analyze the molecular basis of prenatal ethanol exposure-induced defects because embryos can be exposed to ethanol at defined developmental stages and affected genetic pathways can be examined. We have previously shown that disruption of agrin function in zebrafish embryos produces microphthalmia and optic nerve hypoplasia. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to varying concentrations of ethanol in the absence or presence of morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs) that disrupt agrin function. In situ hybridization was used to analyze ocular gene expression as a consequence of ethanol exposure and agrin knockdown. Morphologic analysis of zebrafish embryos was also conducted. Acute ethanol exposure induces diminished agrin gene expression in zebrafish eyes and, importantly, combined treatment with subthreshold levels of agrin MO and ethanol produces pronounced microphthalmia, markedly reduces agrin gene expression, and perturbs Pax6a and Mbx gene expression. Microphthalmia produced by combined agrin MO and ethanol treatment was rescued by sonic hedgehog (Shh) mRNA overexpression, suggesting that ethanol-mediated disruption of agrin expression results in disrupted Shh function. These studies illustrate the strong potential for using zebrafish as a model to aid in defining the molecular basis for ethanol's teratogenic effects. The results of this work suggest that agrin expression and function may be a target of ethanol exposure during embryogenesis.
    Birth Defects Research Part A Clinical and Molecular Teratology 02/2011; 91(3):129-41. · 2.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The zebrafish has become a useful model organism for research on development and diseases. However, there has been no zebrafish model system for studying oral carcinogenesis. In the present study, we first characterized the histology of the upper gastrointestinal tract of zebrafish. We found that zebrafish tongue was covered by a non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium, which was similar to the oro-esophageal epithelium in humans. In situ hybridization showed that keratin 5, a marker of the basal cell layer of mammalian oral epithelium, was expressed in the squamous epithelium of zebrafish tongue. A highly conserved promoter of zebrafish keratin 5 was cloned to drive transgenic expression of GFP. GFP was found to be expressed in the periderm of embryos. In adult fish, GFP was also abundantly expressed in the tongue and fin. GFP expression in transgenic fish recapitulated endogenous zebrafish keratin 5 gene expression as shown by in situ hybridization. This study indicated a high fidelity of GFP reporter gene expression in the tongue under the control of zebrafish keratin 5 promoter. This zebrafish transgenic model system may be used for future studies on oral development and cancer.
    Oral Oncology 11/2009; 46(1):31-7. · 2.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies from our laboratory have begun to elucidate the role of agrin in zebrafish development. One agrin morphant phenotype that results from agrin knockdown is microphthalmia (reduced eye size). To begin to understand the mechanisms underlying the role of agrin in eye development, we have analyzed retina development in agrin morphants. Retinal differentiation is impaired in agrin morphants, with retinal lamination being disrupted following agrin morpholino treatment. Pax 6.1 and Mbx1 gene expression, markers of eye development, are markedly reduced in agrin morphants. Formation of the optic fiber layer of the zebrafish retina is also impaired, exhibited as both reduced size of the optic fiber layer, and disruption of retinal ganglion cell axon growth to the optic tectum. The retinotectal topographic projection to the optic tectum is perturbed in agrin morphants in association with a marked loss of heparan sulfate expression in the retinotectal pathway, with this phenotype resembling retinotectal phenotypes observed in mutant zebrafish lacking enzymes for heparan sulfate synthesis. Treatment of agrin morphants with a fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) receptor inhibitor, rescue of the retinal lamination phenotype by transplantation of Fgf8-coated beads, and disruption of both the expression of Fgf-dependent genes and activation of ERK in agrin morphants provides evidence that agrin modulation of Fgf function contributes to retina development. Collectively, these agrin morphant phenotypes provide support for a crucial role of agrin in retina development and formation of an ordered retinotectal topographic map in the optic tectum of zebrafish.
    Developmental Neurobiology 07/2008; 68(7):877-98. · 4.42 Impact Factor