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Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2007 Mar-Apr;9(2):117-27. Epub 2006 Nov 6.

Fish ES cells and applications to biotechnology.

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Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, Faculty of Sciences, University of Málaga, 29071, Málaga, Spain.


ES cells provide a promising tool for the generation of transgenic animals with site-directed mutations. When ES cells colonize germ cells in chimeras, transgenic animals with modified phenotypes are generated and used either for functional genomics studies or for improving productivity in commercial settings. Although the ES cell approach has been limited to mice, there is strong interest for developing the technology in fish. We describe the step-by-step procedure for developing ES cells in fish. Key aspects include avoiding cell differentiation, specific in vitro traits of pluripotency, and, most importantly, testing for production of chimeric animals as the main evidence of pluripotency. The entire process focuses on two model species, zebrafish and medaka, in which most work has been done. The achievements attained in these species, as well as their applicability to other commercial fish, are discussed. Because of the difficulties relating to germ line competence, mostly of long-term fish ES cells, alternative cell-based approaches such as primordial germ cells and nuclear transfer need to be considered. Although progress to date has been slow, there are promising achievements in homologous recombination and alternative avenues yet to be explored that can bring ES technology in fish to fruition.

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