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Neurobiol Dis. 2010 Oct;40(1):46-57. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2010.05.010. Epub 2010 May 21.

The comparative neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of zebrafish CNS systems of relevance to human neuropsychiatric diseases.

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Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki, POB 63, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


Modulatory neurotransmitters which signal through G protein-coupled receptors control brain functions which deteriorate in degenerative brain diseases. During the past decade many of these systems have been mapped in the zebrafish brain. The main architecture of the systems in zebrafish brain resembles that of the mammals, despite differences in the development of the telencephalon and mesodiencephalon. Modulatory neurotransmitters systems which degenerate in human diseases include dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, histamine, acetylcholine and orexin/hypocretin. Although the number of G protein-coupled receptors in zebrafish is clearly larger than in mammals, many receptors have similar expression patterns, binding and signaling properties as in mammals. Distinct differences between mammals and zebrafish include duplication of the tyrosine hydroxylase gene in zebrafish, and presence of one instead of two monoamine oxidase genes. Zebrafish are sensitive to neurotoxins including MPTP, and exposure to this neurotoxin induces a decline in dopamine content and number of detectable tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive neurons in distinct nuclei. Sensitivity to important neurotoxins, many available genetic methods, rapid development and large-scale quantitative behavioral methods in addition to advanced quantitative anatomical methods render zebrafish an optimal organism for studies on disease mechanisms.

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