Zebrafish for the study of the biological effects of nicotine

Eric W. Klee, Jon O. Ebbert, Henning Schneider, Richard D. Hurt, Stephen C. Ekker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Introduction: Zebrafish are emerging as a powerful animal model for studying the molecular and physiological effects of nicotine exposure. The zebrafish have many advantageous physical characteristics, including small size, high fecundity rates, and externally developing transparent embryos. When combined with a battery of molecular-genetic tools and behavioral assays, these attributes enable studies to be conducted that are not practical using traditional animal models.Methods: We reviewed the literature on the application of the zebrafish model as a preclinical model to study the biological effects of nicotine exposure. Results: The identified studies used zebrafish to examine the effects of nicotine exposure on early development, addiction, anxiety, and learning. The methods used included green fluorescent protein-labeled proteins to track in vivo nicotine-altered neuron development, nicotine-conditioned place preference, and locomotive sensitization linked with high-throughput molecular and genetic screens and behavioral models of learning and stress response to nicotine. Data are presented on the complete homology of all known human neural nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in zebrafish and on the biological similarity of human and zebrafish dopaminergic signaling. Conclusions: Tobacco dependence remains a major health problem worldwide. Further understanding of the molecular effects of nicotine exposure and genetic contributions to dependence may lead to improvement in patient treatment strategies. While there are limitations to the use of zebrafish as a preclinical model, it should provide a valuable tool to complement existing model systems. The reviewed studies demonstrate the enormous opportunity zebrafish have to advance the science of nicotine and tobacco research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-312
Number of pages12
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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