[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Zebrafish are becoming increasingly popular as an organism in which to model human disease and to study the effects of small molecules on complex physiological and pathological processes. Since larvae are no more than a few millimetres in length, and can live in volumes as small as 100 microliters, they are particularly amenable to high-throughput and high content compound screening in 96 well plate format. There is a growing literature providing evidence that many compounds show similar pharmacological effects in zebrafish as they do in mammals, and in particular humans. However, a major question regarding their utility for small molecule screening for neurological conditions is whether a molecule will reach its target site within the central nervous system. Studies have shown that Claudin-5 and ZO-1, tight-junction proteins which are essential for blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity in mammals, can be detected in some cerebral vessels in zebrafish from 3 days post-fertilisation (d.p.f.) onwards and this timing coincides with the retention of dyes, immunoreactive tracers and fluorescent markers within some but not all cerebral vessels. Whilst these findings demonstrate that features of a BBB are first present at 3 d.p.f., it is not clear how quickly the zebrafish BBB matures or how closely the barrier resembles that of mammals. Here, we have combined anatomical analysis by transmission electron microscopy, functional investigation using fluorescent markers and compound uptake using liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry to demonstrate that maturation of the zebrafish BBB occurs between 3 d.p.f. and 10 d.p.f. and that this barrier shares both structural and functional similarities with that of mammals.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to develop a model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in zebrafish larvae, together with a method for the rapid assessment of gut morphology and function in vivo thereby enabling medium-throughput compound screening.
Assays were performed using larval zebrafish from 3-8 days postfertilization (d.p.f.) in 96-well plates. Gut morphology and peristalsis were observed in vivo using fluorescent imaging following ingestion of fluorescent dyes. IBD was induced by addition of 2,4,6-trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS) to the medium within the well. Pathology was assessed in vivo using fluorescent imaging and postmortem by histology, immunohistochemistry, and electron microscopy. Therapeutic compounds were evaluated by coadministration with TNBS.
A novel method of investigating gut architecture and peristalsis was devised using fluorescent imaging of live zebrafish larvae. Archetypal changes in gut architecture consistent with colitis were observed throughout the gut. Significant changes in goblet cell number and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) antibody staining were used to quantify disease severity and rescue. Prednisolone and 5-amino salicylic acid treatment ameliorated the disease changes. Candidate therapeutic compounds (NOS inhibitors, thalidomide, and parthenolide) were assessed and a dissociation was observed between efficacy assessed using a single biochemical measure (TNF-alpha staining) versus an assessment of the entire disease state.
Gut physiology and pathology relevant to human disease state can be rapidly modeled in zebrafish larvae. The model is suitable for medium-throughput chemical screens and is amenable to genetic manipulation, hence offers a powerful novel premammalian adjunct to the study of gastrointestinal disease.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Treatment of the autoimmune demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis (MS) requires therapies that both limit and repair damage. While several immunomodulatory treatments exist to limit damage there are currently no treatments that promote the regenerative process of remyelination. A rapid way of screening potential pro-remyelination compounds is therefore required. The use of larval zebrafish in a drug reprofiling screen allows rapid in vivo screening and has been used successfully in the past as an efficient way of identifying new indications for existing drugs. A novel screening platform for potential pro-myelination compounds was developed using zebrafish larvae. Two percent of compounds screened from reprofiling libraries altered oligodendrocyte lineage cell recruitment and/or proliferation, as measured by the numbers of dorsally migrated spinal cord olig2(+) cells. Selective screening identified three compounds that altered levels of myelination, as measured by whole larvae myelin basic protein (mbp) transcript levels; the src family kinase inhibitor PP2, a biogenic amine and a thioxanthene. As well as many previously unrecognised compounds, identified compounds included those with previously known effects on myelin and/or the oligodendrocyte lineage, such as a PPAR agonist, steroid hormones and src family kinase inhibitors. As well as providing methods for further assessment of potentially beneficial compounds, this screen has highlighted 25 targets that are able to alter oligodendrocyte lineage cell recruitment or proliferation and/or mbp transcript levels in vivo and are worthy of further investigation for their potential effects on remyelination.
Full-text · Article · May 2010 · Neuropharmacology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant, neurodegenerative condition caused by a CAG trinucleotide repeat expansion that is translated into an abnormally long polyglutamine tract in the protein huntingtin. Genetic and transgenic studies suggest that the mutation causes disease predominantly via gain-of-function mechanisms. However, loss of normal huntingtin function resulting from the polyglutamine expansion might also contribute to the pathogenesis of HD. Here, we have studied the effects of huntingtin knockdown in zebrafish using morpholino antisense oligonucleotides, as its huntingtin orthologue has 70% amino acid identity with the human protein. Reduced huntingtin levels did not impact on gastrulation and early development, but caused massive apoptosis of neuronal cells by 24 hpf. This was accompanied by impaired neuronal development, resulting in small eyes and heads and enlargement of brain ventricles. Older huntingtin knockdown fish developed lower jaw abnormalities with most branchial arches missing. Molecular analysis revealed that BDNF expression was reduced by approximately 50%. Reduction of BDNF levels by injection of a BDNF morpholino resulted in phenotypes very similar to those seen in huntingtin knockdown zebrafish. The phenotypes of both huntingtin- and BDNF-knockdown zebrafish showed significant rescue when treated with exogenous BDNF protein. This underscores the physiological importance of huntingtin as a regulator of BDNF production and suggests that loss of BDNF is a major cause of the developmental abnormalities seen with huntingtin knockdown in zebrafish. Increasing BDNF expression may represent a useful strategy for Huntington's disease treatment.
No preview · Article · Mar 2009 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is currently an unmet need for a therapy that promotes the regenerative process of remyelination in central nervous system diseases, notably multiple sclerosis (MS). A high-throughput model is, therefore, required to screen potential therapeutic drugs and to refine genomic and proteomic data from MS lesions. Here, we review the value of the zebrafish (Danio rerio) larva as a model of the developmental process of myelination, describing the powerful applications of zebrafish for genetic manipulation and genetic screens, as well as some of the exciting imaging capabilities of this model. Finally, we discuss how a model of zebrafish myelination can be used as a high-throughput screening model to predict the effect of compounds on remyelination. We conclude that zebrafish provide a highly versatile myelination model. As more complex transgenic zebrafish lines are developed, it might soon be possible to visualise myelination, or even remyelination, in real time. However, experimental outputs must be designed carefully for such visual and temporal techniques.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2008 · Disease Models and Mechanisms
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder in the Western world. PTEN (phosphatase/tensin homolog on chromosome 10)-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), a putative kinase that is mutated in autosomal recessive forms of PD, is also implicated in sporadic cases of the disease. Although the mutations appear to result in a loss of function, the roles of this protein and the pathways involved in PINK1 PD are poorly understood. Here, we generated a vertebrate model of PINK1 insufficiency using morpholino oligonucleotide knockdown in zebrafish (Danio rerio). PINK1 knockdown results in a severe developmental phenotype that is rescued by wild-type human PINK1 mRNA. Morphants display a moderate decrease in the numbers of central dopaminergic neurons and alterations of mitochondrial function, including increases in caspase-3 activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. When the morphants were exposed to several drugs with antioxidant properties, ROS levels were normalized and the associated phenotype improved. In addition, GSK3beta-related mechanisms can account for some of the effects of PINK1 knockdown, as morphant fish show elevated GSK3beta activity and their phenotype is partially abrogated by GSK3beta inhibitors, such as LiCl and SB216763 [3-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-(1-methyl-1H-indol-3-yl)1H-pyrrole-2,5-dione]. This provides new insights into the biology of PINK1 and a possible therapeutic avenue for further investigation.
Preview · Article · Sep 2008 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Safety pharmacology is integral to the non-clinical safety assessment of new chemical entities prior to first administration to humans. The zebrafish is a well established model organism that has been shown to be relevant to the study of human diseases. The potential role of zebrafish in safety pharmacology was evaluated using reference compounds in three models assessing cardiac, visual and intestinal function.
Compound toxicity was first established in zebrafish to determine the non toxic concentration of a blinded set of 16 compounds. In the cardiac assay, zebrafish larvae at 3 days post fertilisation (d.p.f.) were exposed to compounds for 3 h before measurement of the atrial and ventricular rates. To investigate visual function, the optomotor response was assessed in 8 d.p.f. larvae following a 5 day compound exposure. In the intestinal function assay, the number of gut contractions was measured in 7 d.p.f. larvae after a 1 h compound exposure. Finally, compound uptake was determined for 9 of the 16 compounds to measure the concentration of compound absorbed by the zebrafish larvae.
Seven compounds out of nine produced an expected effect that was statistically significant in the cardiac and visual functions assays. In the gut contraction assay, six out of ten compounds showed a statistically significant effect that was also the expected result whilst two displayed anticipated but non-significant effects. The compound uptake method was used to determine larval tissue concentrations and allowed the identification of false negatives when compound was poorly absorbed into the zebrafish.
Overall, results generated in three zebrafish larvae assays demonstrated a good correlation between the effects of compounds in zebrafish and the data available from other in vivo models or known clinical adverse effects. These results suggest that for the cardiac, intestinal and visual function, zebrafish assays have the potential to predict adverse drug effects and supports their possible role in early safety assessment of novel compounds.
No preview · Article · Jul 2008 · Journal of pharmacological and toxicological methods
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autophagy is a major clearance route for intracellular aggregate-prone proteins causing diseases such as Huntington's disease. Autophagy induction with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin accelerates clearance of these toxic substrates. As rapamycin has nontrivial side effects, we screened FDA-approved drugs to identify new autophagy-inducing pathways. We found that L-type Ca2+ channel antagonists, the K+ATP channel opener minoxidil, and the G(i) signaling activator clonidine induce autophagy. These drugs revealed a cyclical mTOR-independent pathway regulating autophagy, in which cAMP regulates IP3 levels, influencing calpain activity, which completes the cycle by cleaving and activating G(s)alpha, which regulates cAMP levels. This pathway has numerous potential points where autophagy can be induced, and we provide proof of principle for therapeutic relevance in Huntington's disease using mammalian cell, fly and zebrafish models. Our data also suggest that insults that elevate intracytosolic Ca2+ (like excitotoxicity) inhibit autophagy, thus retarding clearance of aggregate-prone proteins.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · Nature Chemical Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Habituation, where a response is reduced when exposed to a continuous stimulus is one of the simplest forms of non-associative learning and has been shown in a number of organisms from sea slugs to rodents. However, very little has been reported in the zebrafish, a model that is gaining popularity for high-throughput compound screens. Furthermore, since most of the studies involving learning and memory in zebrafish have been conducted in adults, we sought to determine if zebrafish larvae could display non-associative learning and whether it could be modulated by compounds identified in previous rodent studies. We demonstrated that zebrafish larvae (7 days post fertilization) exhibit iterative reduction in a startle response to a series of acoustic stimuli. Furthermore, this reduction satisfied criteria for habituation: spontaneous recovery, more rapid reductions in startle to shorter intertrial intervals and dishabituation. We then investigated the pathways mediating this behavior using established compounds in learning and memory. Administration of rolipram (PDE4 inhibitor), donepezil (acetylcholinesterase inhibitor), and memantine (N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist) all increased the acoustic startle response and decreased habituation in the larvae, similar to previous rodent studies. Further studies demonstrated that NMDA blocked the memantine response and the effect of donepezil was blocked by mecamylamine but not atropine suggesting that the donepezil response was mediated by nicotinic rather than muscarinic receptors. Zebrafish larvae possess numerous advantages for medium to high-throughput screening; the model described herein therefore offers the potential to screen for additional compounds for further study on cognition function.
Full-text · Article · May 2008 · Neuropsychopharmacology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions often involves a difficult balance between the benefits of disease modification and the risks attendant with the use of disease-modifying agents. Methotrexate is a useful and commonly used disease-modifying agent but has a particularly notable reputation for causing morbidity and mortality. We explore ways in which the safety of methotrexate prescribing may be improved. There has been considerable debate as to the whether some of the side-effects can be mitigated by co-prescription of folate with methotrexate. Whereas no definitive conclusion can yet be reached, evidence suggests that the improvement in side-effect profile is limited to fewer elevations of liver enzymes, but that this may be at the expense of decreased methotrexate efficacy. The question remains as to whether the improved tolerability more than compensates for the decreased efficacy or whether folic acid should be used in a more circumspect way. However, a very specific danger arises from the fact that methotrexate is prescribed once weekly for inflammatory conditions, leading to errors at both the prescription and patient level. We highlight simple ways of improving safety to decrease such errors.
Preview · Article · Sep 2007 · Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The search for novel anticonvulsants requires appropriate model systems in which to test hypotheses through focused compound screening or genetic manipulation, or conduct black box screening of large numbers of compounds or potential genetic modifiers. Many models are currently in existence that subserve particular roles in achieving these aims, but all have their limitations. Zebrafish have been suggested as an additional model of epilepsy, but their optimum role is unclear. They are more amenable to high throughput analysis, but are more genetically removed from humans than rodents. We therefore sought to develop assay methodology applicable to medium/high throughput screening using an automated tracking system to measure the amount of movement induced by exposure to the proconvulsant, pentylene tetrazole (PTZ). We then used this system to explore how many known anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) would be detected when running such a screen. We were able to detect suppression of PTZ-induced excessive movements with 13 out of 14 standard AEDs. A parallel sedation and toxicity screen suggested these effects were due to direct anti-epileptic effect, although non-specific effects cannot be fully excluded. These results suggest zebrafish may be a useful high throughput primary screen to pick up potential novel AEDs.
No preview · Article · Jul 2007 · Epilepsy Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: GBR12909 has been reported to possess anticonvulsant activity with focal brain perfusion to the hippocampus of pilocarpine, although an earlier publication suggested any anticonvulsant effects were only mild. Here we further explored the anticonvulsant potential of GBR12909 with a suite of anticonvulsant assays in both zebrafish and mammals and then explored whether it possessed any QT effects which might limit clinical utility.
We assessed the anticonvulsant effects of GBR12909 in zebrafish pentylenetetrazole (PTZ), mammalian maximal electroshock and PTZ models of generalized epilepsy and a rodent hippocampal kindling model. Cardiac effects were assessed in zebrafish and man.
GBR12909 possesses anticonvulsant activity in zebrafish and rodent models of generalized epilepsy. However, phase 1 human data indicated potential QT effects. Subsequent testing in a zebrafish QT assay confirmed marked arrhythmogenic potential.
Further clinical development of GBR12909 in epilepsy was considered inappropriate because of insufficient window between the therapeutic effects and the cardiac arrhythmia problems identified in zebrafish assays. Any further development based on this mechanism of action should avoid the GBR12909 chemical scaffold, or involve structure-activity dissociation of its neurological and cardiac effects.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Osteoporosis and diseases of bone loss are a major public health problem for the present and the future since longevity and prevalence of the disease are increasing in all parts of the world. The bisphosphonates, widely used in the treatment of osteoporosis, act by inhibiting bone resorption. However, there are few agents that promote or increase bone formation in patients who have suffered substantial bone loss. To facilitate the identification of novel anabolic therapies, the authors have developed a rapid, high-throughput in vivo screen using larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) in which they are able to identify agents with anabolic effects in the skeleton within a 6-day time period. Vitamin D3 analogs and intermittent parathyroid hormone (PTH) result in dose-dependent increases in the formation of mineralized bone, whereas continuous exposure to PTH results in net bone loss. Because this model is fast, economical, and genetically tractable, it provides a powerful adjunct to mammalian models for the identification of new anabolic bone agents and offers the potential for genetic elucidation of pathways important in osteoblastic activity.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2006 · Journal of Biomolecular Screening
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The commonest interaction of industry with academia is as the passive recipient of intellectual property. A much deeper and productive interaction is possible with the creation of closely knit collaborations. Here the barriers to achieving this and how they may be overcome are explored.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Zebrafish combine the relevance of a vertebrate with the scalability of an invertebrate. They can live in 96-well plate format and readily absorb chemicals from the water. These features have stimulated the use of zebrafish by medical researchers to model human disease and then assess the action of compounds in a whole organism. Examples of the power of this system have been illustrated with the cloning of zebrafish human ether-a-go-go-related gene (HERG), which shows near 100% homology in key domains, and the associated ability to identify drugs that prolong the QT interval both rapidly and with tiny amounts (micrograms) of compound.
No preview · Article · Nov 2004 · Current Opinion in Pharmacology