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J Virol. 2005 Feb;79(3):1842-52.

Characterization of snakehead rhabdovirus infection in zebrafish (Danio rerio).

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, 5735 Hitchner Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA.


The zebrafish, Danio rerio, has become recognized as a valuable model for the study of development, genetics, and toxicology. Recently, the zebrafish has been recognized as a useful model for infectious disease and immunity. In this study, the pathogenesis and antiviral immune response of zebrafish to experimental snakehead rhabdovirus (SHRV) infection was characterized. Zebrafish 24 h postfertilization to 30 days postfertilization were susceptible to infection by immersion in 10(6) 50% tissue culture infective doses (TCID50) of SHRV/ml, and adult zebrafish were susceptible to infection by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of 10(5) TCID50 of SHRV/ml. Mortalities exceeded 40% in infected fish, and clinical presentation of infection included petechial hemorrhaging, redness of the abdomen, and erratic swim behavior. Virus reisolation and reverse transcription-PCR analysis of the viral nucleocapsid gene confirmed the presence of SHRV. Histological sections of moribund embryonic and juvenile fish revealed necrosis of the pharyngeal epithelium and liver, in addition to congestion of the swim bladder by cell debris. Histopathology in adult fish injected i.p. was confined to the site of injection. The antiviral response in zebrafish was monitored by quantitative real-time PCR analysis of zebrafish interferon (IFN) and Mx expression. IFN and Mx levels were elevated in zebrafish exposed to SHRV, although expression and intensity differed with age and route of infection. This study is the first to examine the pathogenesis of SHRV infection in zebrafish. Furthermore, this study is the first to describe experimental infection of zebrafish embryos with a viral pathogen, which will be important for future experiments involving targeted gene disruption and forward genetic screens.

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