Article

Behavioural effects of acute ethanol in larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) depend on genotype and volume of experimental well

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  • SickKids Research Institute
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Abstract

Ethanol consumption is a worldwide problem. Sensitivity to acute effects of ethanol influences the development of chronic ethanol abuse and ethanol dependence. Environmental and genetic factors have been found to contribute to differential effects of acute ethanol. Animal models have been employed to investigate these factors. An increasingly frequently utilized animal model in ethanol research is the zebrafish. A large proportion of ethanol studies with zebrafish have been conducted with adult zebrafish. However, high throughput drug and mutation screens are particularly well adapted to larval zebrafish. These studies are often carried out using the 96-well-plate that allows monitoring large numbers of fish efficiently. Here, we investigate the effects of acute (30 min long) ethanol exposure in 8-day post-fertilization (dpf) old zebrafish. We compare four genetically distinct populations (strains) of zebrafish, measuring numerous parameters of their swim path in two well sizes, i.e., in the 96-well-plate (small volume wells) and in the 6-well-plate (large volume wells). In general, we found that the highest dose of ethanol (1% vol/vol) reduced swim speed, increased duration of immobility, increased turn angle, and increased intra-individual variance of turn angle, while the intermediate dose (0.5%) had a less strong effect, compared to control. However, we also found that these ethanol effects were strain dependent and, in general, were better detected in the larger volume well. We conclude that larval zebrafish are appropriate for quantification of acute ethanol effects and also for the analysis of environmental and genetic factors that influence these effects. We also speculate that using larger wells will likely increase sensitivity of detection and precision in screening applications.

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Introduction: Only a few medications are available for the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Areas covered: This paper discusses approved AUD medications, including the opioid antagonists; naltrexone and nalmefene (the latter is licensed for reduction of alcohol consumption only), the putative glutamate receptor antagonist acamprosate and the aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor disulfiram. It also covers off-label medications of interest, including topiramate, gabapentin, ondansetron, varenicline, baclofen, sodium oxybate and antidepressants. Clinical implications, benefits and risks of treatment are discussed. Expert opinion: Acamprosate, naltrexone, nalmefene and disulfiram are the only approved “alcohol-specific” drugs. Acamprosate and naltrexone have been evaluated in numerous clinical trials and represent evidence-based treatments in AUDs. Nalmefene use, however, is controversial. Supervised disulfiram is a second-line treatment approach. Compounds developed and licensed for different neuropsychiatric disorders are potential alternatives. Encouraging results have been reported for topiramate, gabapentin and also varenicline, which might be useful in patients with comorbid nicotine dependence. The GABA-B receptor agonist baclofen has been studied more intensively and shown mixed results; it is currently licensed for the treatment of AUDs in France only. Gabapentin may be close to approval in the USA. Further studies of these novel treatment approaches in AUDs are needed.
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The purpose of this review is to present animal research models that can be used to screen and/or repurpose medications for the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. The focus will be on rats and in particular selectively bred rats. Brief introductions discuss various aspects of the clinical picture, which provide characteristics of individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) to model in animals. Following this, multiple selectively bred rat lines will be described and evaluated in the context of animal models used to screen medications to treat AUDs. Next, common behavioral tests for drug efficacy will be discussed particularly as they relate to stages in the addiction cycle. Tables highlighting studies that have tested the effects of compounds using the respective techniques are included. Wherever possible the Tables are organized chronologically in ascending order to describe changes in the focus of research on AUDs over time. In general, high ethanol-consuming selectively bred rats have been used to test a wide range of compounds. Older studies usually followed neurobiological findings in the selected lines that supported an association with a propensity for high ethanol intake. Most of these tests evaluated the compound's effects on the maintenance of ethanol drinking. Very few compounds have been tested during ethanol-seeking and/or relapse and fewer still have assessed their effects during the acquisition of AUDs. Overall, while a substantial number of neurotransmitter and neuromodulatory system targets have been assessed; the roles of sex- and age-of-animal, as well as the acquisition of AUDs, ethanol-seeking and relapse continue to be factors and behaviors needing further study.
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Alcohol addiction is a major unmet medical and economic issue for which very few efficacious pharmacological treatment options are currently available. The development and identification of new compounds and drugs to treat alcohol addiction is hampered by the high costs and low amenability of traditional laboratory rodents to high-throughput behavioral screens. The zebrafish represents an excellent compromise between systems complexity and practical simplicity by overcoming many limitations inherent in these rodent models. In this chapter, we review current advances in the behavioral and neurochemical characterization of ethanol-induced changes in zebrafish. We also discuss the basic principles and methods of and the most recent advances in using paradigms with which one can screen for compounds altering acute and chronic ethanol-induced effects in zebrafish.
Article
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a devastating disease of the brain caused by exposure to alcohol during prenatal development. Its prevalence exceeds 1%. The majority of FASD cases represent the milder forms of the disease which often remain undiagnosed, and even when diagnosed treatment options for the patient are limited due to lack of information about the mechanisms that underlie the disease. The zebrafish has been proposed as a model organism for exploring the mechanisms of FASD. Our laboratory has been studying the effects of low doses of alcohol during embryonic development in the zebrafish. This review discusses the methods of alcohol exposure, its effects on behavioral performance including social behavior and learning, and the potential underlying biological mechanisms in zebrafish. It is based upon a recent keynote address delivered by the author, and it focuses on findings obtained mainly in his own laboratory. It paints a promising future of this small vertebrate in FASD research. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Article
Unlabelled: The zebrafish is a relatively new model organism and has become a valuable tool in genetic, developmental, and pharmacological researches. Zebrafish larvae, compared with adult, are particularly suitable for high-throughput screening of drug effects. AB and TU are well established in-bred zebrafish strains. The behavioral responses to acute MK-801 treatments (0, 5, 20, 100, and 200μM) under illumination at 50lx were studied using zebrafish larvae of both AB and TU strains at 7dpf with ZebraLab software. Two behavioral parameters, traveling distance and activity counts, were analyzed. "Traveling distance" represents locomotor activity, whereas "activity count" is any activity including small, non-ambulatory movements. Zebrafish larvae of TU strain demonstrated inhibitory effects in both behavioral parameters in response to MK-801 treatment. Zebrafish larvae of AB strain showed lack of responses to MK-801 treatments in traveling distance, and showed increases in activity counts. Therefore, zebrafish larvae of AB and TU strains demonstrated opposite responses in activity counts towards MK-801 treatment. Differences in the level of neurotransmitters and their respective metabolites (NE and MHPG, DA and DOPAC, 5-HT and 5-HIAA) between AB and TU strain zebrafish larvae were discovered by HPLC analysis, which was related to the strain-dependent differential behavioral responses to MK-801 treatment. Conclusion: Under the influences of MK-801, in contrast with TU strain, AB strain zebrafish larvae demonstrated activity changes similar to previous studies on rodents. AB strain larvae are better model organisms than TU strain larvae in MK-801 related behavioral studies.
Article
Alcohol abuse and dependence is a rapidly growing problem with few treatment options available. The zebrafish has become a popular animal model for behavioural neuroscience. This species may be appropriate for investigating the effects of alcohol on the vertebrate brain. In the current review, we examine the literature by discussing how alcohol alters behaviour in zebrafish and how it may affect biological correlates. We focus on two phenomena that are often examined in the context of alcohol-induced neuroplasticity. Alcohol tolerance (a progressive decrease in the effect of alcohol over time) is often observed following continuous (chronic) exposure to low concentrations of alcohol. Alcohol sensitization also called reverse tolerance (a progressive increase in the effect of alcohol over time) is often observed following repeated discrete exposures to higher concentrations of alcohol. These two phenomena may underlie the development and maintenance of alcohol addiction. The phenotypical characterization of these responses in zebrafish may be the first important steps in establishing this species as a tool for the analysis of the molecular and neurobiological mechanisms underlying human alcohol addiction.
Article
The zebrafish is increasingly utilized in the analysis of the effects of ethanol (alcohol) on brain function and behavior. We have shown significant population-dependent alcohol-induced changes in zebrafish behavior and have started to analyze alterations in dopaminergic and serotoninergic responses. Here, we analyze the effects of alcohol on levels of selected neurochemicals using a 2 × 3 (chronic × acute) between-subject alcohol exposure paradigm randomized for two zebrafish populations, AB and SF. Each fish first received the particular chronic treatment (0 or 0.5 vol/vol % alcohol) and subsequently the acute exposure (0, 0.5 or 1.0 % alcohol). We report changes in levels of dopamine, DOPAC, serotonin, 5HIAA, glutamate, GABA, aspartate, glycine and taurine as quantified from whole brain extracts using HPLC. We also analyze monoamine oxidase and tyrosine hydroxylase enzymatic activity. The results demonstrate that compared to SF, AB is more responsive to both acute alcohol exposure and acute alcohol withdrawal at the level of neurochemistry, a finding that correlates well with prior behavioral observations and one which suggests the involvement of genes in the observed alcohol effects. We discuss correlations between the current results and prior behavioral findings, and stress the importance of characterization of zebrafish strains for future behavior genetic and psychopharmacology studies.
Article
The zebrafish has been proposed as a model organism to study genetic effects influencing behaviour and also as a tool with which the mechanisms of the action of alcohol (ethanol or EtOH) in the vertebrate brain may be investigated. In the current study we exposed zebrafish from two genetically distinct strains (WIK and TU) to a computer animated image of a natural predator of this species, the Indian leaf fish. We measured the subjects' behavioural responses in the presence of different acute doses of alcohol (0.00, 0.25, 0.50, and 1.00% vol/vol) using an observation based event-recording method. We found fish of both strains to exhibit an atypical predator inspection response during the presentation of the animated predator image coupled with a classical fear response, increased jumping frequency. We found numerous alcohol induced behavioural changes and more importantly also revealed alcohol induced strain dependent changes as well, including different dose-response trajectories for WIK versus TU in predator inspection response, general swimming activity, location of swimming (top vs. bottom half of the tank) and freezing. The results suggest that zebrafish of the TU strain may be more tolerant at least to lower doses of alcohol as compared to WIK. The characterization of strain differences in zebrafish will aid the identification of possible molecular mechanisms involved in alcohol's actions in the vertebrate brain.
Article
Since the publication of our initial review of restraint stress in 1986, much work has continued with this technique, either as a tool for the investigation of other pharmacological, physiological, or pathologic phenomena or with restraint stress itself serving as the object of the study. As we noted in 1986, the major use of restraint has been for the induction of stress responses in animals and, more specifically, for the investigation of drug effects, particularly as they affect typical stress-related pathology—gastrointestinal, neuroendocrine, and immunological agents have been extensively studied. In compiling this update on restraint stress and its effects, we noted an increasing emphasis on central nervous system mechanisms in peripheral disease, especially gastrointestinal disease. In particular, many CNS-active agents have been tested for their effects on gastric and duodenal lesion formation and gastric secretion, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, noradrenergic, serotonergic, dopaminergic, and peptidergic compounds. Some of these agents are especially active in the gastrointestinal tract even when administered centrally, further solidifying the concept of a brain-gut axis. The present update includes studies of: methods and procedures, prerestraint manipulations, postrestraint/healing effects, and drug effects. In addition, a current bibliography of reports that have employed restraint is included.
Article
The zebrafish is becoming increasingly popular in behavior genetics because it may allow one to conduct large scale mutation and drug screens facilitating the discovery of mechanisms of complex traits. Strain differences in adult zebrafish behavior have already been reported, which may have important implications in neurobehavioral genetics. For example, we have found the AB and SF strains to differ in their behavioral responses to both acute and chronic alcohol exposure. In the current study, we further characterize these strains using semi-quantitative RT-PCR to measure the expression of ten selected genes and HPLC to measure the levels of nine neurochemicals. We chose the target genes and neurochemicals based upon their potential involvement in alcohol and other drugs of abuse related mechanisms. We quantified the expression of the genes encoding D1-R, D2a-R, D4a-R dopamine receptors, GABA(A)-R, GABA(B)-R1, GAD1, MAO, NMDA-R (NR2D subunit), 5HT-R1bd and SLC6 a4a. We found the gene encoding D1 dopamine receptor over-expressed and the genes encoding GABA(B1) receptor and solute family carrier protein 6 (SLC6) 4a under-expressed in SF compared to AB. We also found the level of all (dopamine, DOPAC, Serotonin, GABA, Glutamate, Glycine, Aspartate, Taurine) but one (5HIAA) neurochemicals tested decreased in SF as compared to AB. These results, combined with previously identified behavioral differences between the AB and SF strains, demonstrate the importance of strain characterization in zebrafish. They now also allow formulation of working hypotheses about possible mechanisms underlying the differential effects of acute and chronic alcohol treatment on these two zebrafish strains.
Article
Because psychotropic drugs affect behavior, we can use changes in behavior to discover psychotropic drugs. The original prototypes of most neuroactive medicines were discovered in humans, rodents and other model organisms. Most of these discoveries were made by chance, but the process of behavior based drug discovery can be made more systematic and efficient. Fully automated platforms for analyzing the behavior of embryonic zebrafish capture digital video recordings of animals in each individual well of a 96-well plate before, during, and after a series of stimuli. To analyze systematically the thousands of behavioral recordings obtained from a large-scale chemical screen, we transform these behavioral recordings into numerical barcodes, providing a concise and interpretable summary of the observed phenotypes in each well. Systems-level analysis of these behavioral phenotypes generate testable hypotheses about the molecular mechanisms of poorly understood drugs and behaviors. By combining the in vivo relevance of behavior-based phenotyping with the scale and automation of modern drug screening technologies, systematic behavioral barcoding represents a means of discovering psychotropic drugs and provides a powerful, systematic approach for unraveling the complexities of vertebrate behavior.
Article
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are rapidly emerging as a useful animal model in neurobehavioral research. Mounting evidence shows the suitability of zebrafish to model various aspects of anxiety-related states. Here, we evaluate established and novel approaches to uncover the molecular substrates, genetic pathways and neural circuits of anxiety using adult zebrafish. Experimental approaches to modeling anxiety in zebrafish include novelty-based paradigms, pharmacological and genetic manipulations, as well as innovative video-tracking, 3D-reconstructions, bioinformatics-based searchable databases and omics-based tools. Complementing traditional rodent models of anxiety, we provide a conceptual framework for the wider application of zebrafish and other aquatic models in anxiety research. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.
Article
Zebrafish are at the forefront of neurobiological research and have been gaining popularity as a viable and valid behavioral model in a variety of research applications (e.g., assessing drug induced behavioral changes). This model becomes even more attractive when considering the behavioral changes that follow exposure to compounds that are water-soluble. As such, several studies have implicated both acute and chronic ethanol exposure in the modulation of zebrafish behavior. Within this arena there appears to be a common trend across multiple studies. As with many drugs ethanol appears to influence behavior in a dose-dependent manner. In this review, we compare and contrast several studies that measure behavior as a result of alcohol exposure. Appended to this review are pilot data that report zebrafish blood alcohol concentrations as a function of acute exposure.
Article
Steatosis is the most common consequence of acute alcohol abuse, such as occurs during a drinking binge. Acute alcohol induced steatosis may predispose to more severe hepatic disease. We have developed a model of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) in zebrafish larvae to provide a system in which the genes and pathways that contribute to steatosis can be rapidly identified. Zebrafish larvae represent an attractive vertebrate model for studying acute ALD because they possess the pathways to metabolize alcohol, the liver is mature by 4 days post-fertilization (dpf), and alcohol can be simply added to their water. Exposing 4 dpf zebrafish larvae to 2% ethanol (EtOH) for 32 hours achieves ∼80 mM intracellular EtOH and upregulation of hepatic cyp2e1, sod, and bip, indicating that EtOH is metabolized and provokes oxidative stress. EtOH-treated larvae develop ALD as demonstrated by hepatomegaly and steatosis. Increased lipogenesis driven by the sterol response element binding protein (SREBP) transcription factors is essential for steatosis associated with chronic alcohol ingestion but it has not been determined if the same pathway is essential for steatosis following a drinking binge. We report that several Srebp target genes are induced in the liver of zebrafish exposed to EtOH. We used fish which harbor a mutation in the gene encoding the membrane bound transcription factor protease 1 (mbtps1; also called site-1 protease) and embryos in which the Srebp cleavage activating protein (scap) is knocked down to determine the requirement of this pathway in acute ALD. We find that both means of blocking Srebp activation prevents steatosis in response to 2% EtOH. Moreover, this is accompanied by the failure to activate several Srebp target genes in response to alcohol. We conclude that Srebps are required for steatosis in response to acute alcohol exposure. Moreover, these data highlight the utility of zebrafish as a useful new vertebrate model to study ALD.
Article
Human neuropsychiatric conditions associated with abnormally exaggerated or misdirected fear (anxiety disorders and phobias) still represent a large unmet medical need because the biological mechanisms underlying these diseases are not well understood. Animal models have been proposed to facilitate this research. Here I review the literature with a focus on zebrafish, an upcoming laboratory organism in behavioral brain research. I argue that abnormal human fear responses are likely the result of the malfunction of neurobiological mechanisms (brain areas, circuits and/or molecular mechanisms) that originally evolved to support avoidance of predators or other harm in nature. I also argue that the understanding of the normal as well as pathological functioning of such mechanisms may be best achieved if one utilizes naturalistic experimental approaches. In case of laboratory model organisms, this may entail presenting stimuli associated with predators and measuring species-specific antipredatory responses. Although zebrafish is a relatively new subject of such inquiry, I review the recently rapidly increasing number of zebrafish studies in this area, and conclude that zebrafish is a promising research tool for the analysis of the neurobiology and genetics of vertebrate fear responses.
Article
Presently, the zebrafish is the only vertebrate model compatible with contemporary paradigms of drug discovery. Zebrafish embryos are amenable to automation necessary for high-throughput chemical screens, and optical transparency makes them potentially suited for image-based screening. However, the lack of tools for automated analysis of complex images presents an obstacle to using the zebrafish as a high-throughput screening model. We have developed an automated system for imaging and analyzing zebrafish embryos in multi-well plates regardless of embryo orientation and without user intervention. Images of fluorescent embryos were acquired on a high-content reader and analyzed using an artificial intelligence-based image analysis method termed Cognition Network Technology (CNT). CNT reliably detected transgenic fluorescent embryos (Tg(fli1:EGFP)(y1)) arrayed in 96-well plates and quantified intersegmental blood vessel development in embryos treated with small molecule inhibitors of anigiogenesis. The results demonstrate it is feasible to adapt image-based high-content screening methodology to measure complex whole organism phenotypes.
Article
The pharmacogenetic differences among individuals in their capacity to metabolize ingested alcohol are possibly responsible for the large inter-individual and inter-ethnic variations observed in the outcome of alcohol use and misuse. Based on results of adoption, twin, and family studies it is now widely accepted that the vulnerability to alcoholism is determined by genetic factors as well as by environment. There is a constant search for biological markers and specific genes which could identify individuals genetically predisposed to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Numerous 'candidate genes' for alcoholism have been suggested including the alcohol metabolizing enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Both ADH and ALDH exhibit genetic heterogeneity. An atypical form of ADH (ADH2), which contains a variant beta 2 subunit instead of the usual beta 1 subunit, differs substantially from the usual form in its kinetic properties and is found more frequently among the Japanese, Chinese and other Mongoloid populations than in Caucasoids and Negroids. A widely prevalent genetic polymorphism has been observed for ALDH; about 50% of Japanese and Chinese livers possess an inactive ALDH (ALDH2 isozyme) whereas none of the Caucasian or Negroid populations show this isozyme abnormality. These metabolic polymorphisms seem to contribute to differences in the in vivo elimination rate of ethanol and acetaldehyde, and may explain differences in alcohol-related behaviour and its disease outcome. Taken together, Orientals who possess an atypical ALDH2 gene are more sensitive to acute responses to alcohol, tend to be discouraged from drinking alcohol, and consequently are at lower risk of developing alcohol-related disorders. However, more work is needed to support these findings. Recent advances in molecular genetics have made it possible to analyze directly the human genome. This may help in a better understanding of the complex genetic and environmental factors in alcohol abuse by providing prospects for identification of gene loci which may be responsible for predisposition to, and protection from, alcoholism.
Article
Zebrafish genes and development are being studied in a growing number of laboratories. Given that many other organisms are already being exploited by large numbers of investigators, and that our general knowledge about the zebrafish embryo and genome is at present rather sketchy, why should we now concern ourselves with how this tropical fish develops? Whereas the zebrafish embryo is similar in important ways to other vertebrate embryos, it is relatively simple and unusually accessible for both cellular and genetic analyses.