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J Vis Exp. 2011 Aug 29;(54). pii: 2845. doi: 10.3791/2845.

Laser ablation of the zebrafish pronephros to study renal epithelial regeneration.

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1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, USA.

Abstract

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is characterized by high mortality rates from deterioration of renal function over a period of hours or days that culminates in renal failure. AKI can be caused by a number of factors including ischemia, drug-based toxicity, or obstructive injury. This results in an inability to maintain fluid and electrolyte homeostasis. While AKI has been observed for decades, effective clinical therapies have yet to be developed. Intriguingly, some patients with AKI recover renal functions over time, a mysterious phenomenon that has been only rudimentally characterized. Research using mammalian models of AKI has shown that ischemic or nephrotoxin-injured kidneys experience epithelial cell death in nephron tubules, the functional units of the kidney that are made up of a series of specialized regions (segments) of epithelial cell types. Within nephrons, epithelial cell death is highest in proximal tubule cells. There is evidence that suggests cell destruction is followed by dedifferentiation, proliferation, and migration of surrounding epithelial cells, which can regenerate the nephron entirely. However, there are many unanswered questions about the mechanisms of renal epithelial regeneration, ranging from the signals that modulate these events to reasons for the wide variation of abilities among humans to regenerate injured kidneys. The larval zebrafish provides an excellent model to study kidney epithelial regeneration as its pronephric kidney is comprised of nephrons that are conserved with higher vertebrates including mammals. The nephrons of zebrafish larvae can be visualized with fluorescence techniques because of the relative transparency of the young zebrafish. This provides a unique opportunity to image cell and molecular changes in real-time, in contrast to mammalian models where nephrons are inaccessible because the kidneys are structurally complex systems internalized within the animal. Recent studies have employed the aminoglycoside gentamicin as a toxic causative agent for study of AKI and subsequent renal failure: gentamicin and other antibiotics have been shown to cause AKI in humans, and researchers have formulated methods to use this agent to trigger kidney damage in zebrafish. However, the effects of aminoglycoside toxicity in zebrafish larvae are catastrophic and lethal, which presents a difficulty when studying epithelial regeneration and function over time. Our method presents the use of targeted cell ablation as a novel tool for the study of epithelial injury in zebrafish. Laser ablation gives researchers the ability to induce cell death in a limited population of cells. Varying areas of cells can be targeted based on morphological location, function, or even expression of a particular cellular phenotype. Thus, laser ablation will increase the specificity of what researchers can study, and can be a powerful new approach to shed light on the mechanisms of renal epithelial regeneration. This protocol can be broadly applied to target cell populations in other organs in the zebrafish embryo to study injury and regeneration in any number of contexts of interest.

PMID:
21897358
PMCID:
PMC3217622
DOI:
10.3791/2845
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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