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Curr Biol. 2000 Aug 24;10(16):1001-4.

Zebrafish dracula encodes ferrochelatase and its mutation provides a model for erythropoietic protoporphyria.

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Cardiovascular Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital East, Charlestown 02129, USA.


Exposure to light precipitates the symptoms of several genetic disorders that affect both skin and internal organs. It is presumed that damage to non-cutaneous organs is initiated indirectly by light, but this is difficult to study in mammals. Zebrafish have an essentially transparent periderm for the first days of development. In a previous large-scale genetic screen we isolated a mutation, dracula (drc), which manifested as a light-dependent lysis of red blood cells [1]. We report here that protoporphyrin IX accumulates in the mutant embryos, suggesting a deficiency in the activity of ferrochelatase, the terminal enzyme in the pathway for heme biosynthesis. We find that homozygous drc(m248) mutant embryos have a G-->T transversion at a splice donor site in the ferrochelatase gene, creating a premature stop codon. The mutant phenotype, which shows light-dependent hemolysis and liver disease, is similar to that seen in humans with erythropoietic protoporphyria, a disorder of ferrochelatase.

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