As a vertebrate model, zebrafish has several essential features compared to Drosophila and mouse, which can be employed for straight forward gene function analysis. Most important, zebrafish embryos are optically farely transparent, so that the development, specification and migration of cells and tissues can be visualized easily by fluorescent confocal microscopy, or even bright field live video microscopy. For imaging of adult zebrafish, several optically transparent mutant strains are available, e.g. the casper mutant.
In light of the biomedical research focus, it is important that 70% of the genes that have been implicated in human diseases have counterparts in the zebrafish genome. Based on this remarkable evolutionary conservation, the genetic tools available and the plasticity of the zebrafish model allowes for the establishment of human disease models for cancer, cardiovascular and immune system diseases, diabetes, neurodegeneration and many others.
Following a strategic decision to employ the zebrafish Danio rerio as a third genetic model system, the LIMES zebrafish facility was launched in year 2012, in cooperation with our Japanese partners at the TWIns Institute, Waseda University, Tokyo.
The first LIMES zebrafish project was inspired by ongoing Drosophila and mouse projects focussing on Ceramide synthases as one of the key enzymes of sphingolipid metabolism. The goal of the study was a thourough expression analysis of the Ceramide synthase gene family via whole mount imaging during zebrafish development (Brondolin et al. 2013).
Ongoing zebrafish projects have a common focus on the impact of nutrient and energy metabolism on essential organismic functions like Innate immune system and the central nervous system. To unravel novel gene functions and signaling networks, Crispr and TALEN based genome editing is applied to generate Knock-Out and Knock-In models.