Zebrafish: a preclinical model for drug screening.

Chuenlei Parng, Wen Lin Seng, Carlos Semino, Patricia McGrath

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

348 Citations (Scopus)


The zebrafish embryo has become an important vertebrate model for assessing drug effects. It is well suited for studies in genetics, embryology, development, and cell biology. Zebrafish embryos exhibit unique characteristics, including ease of maintenance and drug administration, short reproductive cycle, and transparency that permits visual assessment of developing cells and organs. Because of these advantages, zebrafish bioassays are cheaper and faster than mouse assays, and are suitable for large-scale drug screening. Here we describe the use of zebrafish bioassays for assessing toxicity, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. Using 18 chemicals, we demonstrated that toxic response, teratogenic effects, and LC(50) in zebrafish are comparable to results in mice. The effects of compounds on various organs, including the heart, brain, intestine, pancreas, cartilage, liver, and kidney, were observed in the transparent animals without complicated processing, demonstrating the efficiency of toxicity assays using zebrafish embryos. Using endogenous alkaline phosphatase staining and a whole-animal enzyme assay, we demonstrated that SU5416 and flavopiridol, compounds shown to have antiangiogenic effects in mammals, inhibit blood vessel growth in zebrafish, and this bioassay is suitable for high-throughput screening using a 96-well microplate reader. We also demonstrated that in vivo acridine orange staining can be used to visualize apoptotic events in embryos treated with brefeldin A, neomycin, or caspase inhibitors. After in vivo staining, acridine orange can be extracted and quantitated using a fluorescence microplate reader, providing a screening system for agents that modulate apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalAssay and drug development technologies
Issue number1 Pt 1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


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