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Amino Acids. 2012 Nov;43(5):2059-72. doi: 10.1007/s00726-012-1284-0. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Dopamine receptor antagonism disrupts social preference in zebrafish: a strain comparison study.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Rm 4020C, Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6, Canada.


Zebrafish form shoals in nature and in the laboratory. The sight of conspecifics has been found reinforcing in zebrafish learning tasks. However, the mechanisms of shoaling, and those of its reinforcing properties, are not known. The dopaminergic system has been implicated in reward among other functions and it is also engaged by drugs of abuse as shown in a variety of vertebrates including zebrafish. The ontogenetic changes in dopamine levels and, to a lesser degree, in serotonin levels, have been found to accompany the maturation of shoaling in zebrafish. Thus, we hypothesized that the dopaminergic system may contribute to shoaling in zebrafish. To test this we employed a D1-receptor antagonist and quantified behavioral responses of our subjects using a social preference (shoaling) paradigm. We found significant reduction of social preference induced by the D1-R antagonist, SCH23390, in the AB strain of zebrafish, an alteration that was not accompanied by changes in motor function or vision. We also detected D1-R antagonist-induced changes in the level of dopamine, DOPAC, serotonin and 5HIAA, respectively, in the brain of AB zebrafish as quantified by HPLC with electrochemical detection. We found the antagonist-induced behavioral changes to be absent and the levels of these neurochemicals to be lower in another zebrafish population, SF, demonstrating naturally occurring genetic variability in these traits. We conclude that this variability may be utilized to unravel the mechanisms of social behavior in zebrafish, a line of research that may be extended to other vertebrates including our own species.

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