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J Neurochem. 2005 Sep;94(6):1559-69. Epub 2005 Jul 5.

Expression and function of alpha-adrenoceptors in zebrafish: drug effects, mRNA and receptor distributions.

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Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.


The alpha2-adrenoceptors are G-protein-coupled receptors that mediate many of the physiological effects of norepinephrine and epinephrine. Mammals have three subtypes of alpha2-adrenoceptors, alpha2A, alpha2B and alpha2C. Zebrafish, a teleost fish used widely as a model organism, has five distinct alpha2-adrenoceptor genes. The zebrafish has emerged as a powerful tool to study development and genetics, with many mutations causing diseases reminiscent of human diseases. Three of the zebrafish adra2 genes code for orthologues of the mammalian alpha2-adrenoceptors, while two genes code for alpha2Da- and alpha2Db- adrenoceptors, representing a duplicated, fourth alpha2-adrenoceptor subtype. The three different mammalian alpha2-adrenoceptor subtypes have distinct expression patterns in different organs and tissues, and mediate different physiological functions. The zebrafish alpha2-adrenergic system, with five different alpha2-adrenoceptors, appears more complicated. In order to deduce the physiological functions of the zebrafish alpha2-adrenoceptors, we localized the expression of the five different alpha2-adrenoceptor subtypes using RT-PCR, mRNA in situ hybridization, and receptor autoradiography using the radiolabelled alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist [ethyl-3H]RS-79948-197. Localization of the alpha2A-, alpha2B- and alpha2C-adrenoceptors in zebrafish shows marked conservation when compared with mammals. The zebrafish alpha2A, alpha2Da, and alpha2Db each partially follow the distribution pattern of the mammalian alpha2A: a possible indication of subfunction partitioning between these subtypes. The alpha2-adrenergic system is functional in zebrafish also in vivo, as demonstrated by marked locomotor inhibition, similarly to mammals, and lightening of skin colour induced by the specific alpha2-adrenoceptor agonist, dexmedetomidine. Both effects were antagonized by the specific alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist atipamezole.

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