The genetic basis of development and behaviors in zebrafish

Zebrafish is an excellent model vertebrate because of high fecundity, rapid embryonic development, transparency at the embryonic stages and inexpensive and easy breeding procedures. However, neither an efficient transgenesis method nor a transposon technology had not been developed until recently. We identified an autonomous member from the medaka fish Tol2 transposable element, and developed a highly efficient transgenesis method for the first time in zebrafish. Further, we successfully developed the gene trap and enhancer trap methods and the Gal4- UAS method. By using these methods, we created a large number of transgenic fish that express the GFP reporter gene or the yeast Gal4 transcription activator in specific cells, tissues and organs. These transgenic fish are valuable resources for studies of developmental biology and neuroscience. We aim to apply these methods and resources to the study of neuroscience. By using transgenic fish that express Gal4 in specific neural circuits, we visualize structures of specific neural circuits, inhibit their functions and detect their activities by calcium imaging. Thus, studies toward understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying complex behaviors of a vertebrate animal are currently ongoing in our laboratory.

Real-time visualization of neuronal activity during perception