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Pflugers Arch. 2013 Sep;465(9):1233-47. doi: 10.1007/s00424-013-1269-1. Epub 2013 Apr 9.

Zebrafish as an animal model to study ion homeostasis.

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Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, Taiwan.


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) possesses several advantages as an experimental organism, including the applicability of molecular tools, ease of in vivo cellular observation and functional analysis, and rapid embryonic development, making it an emerging model for the study of integrative and regulatory physiology and, in particular, the epithelial transport associated with body fluid ionic homeostasis. Zebrafish inhabits a hypotonic freshwater environment, and as such, the gills (or the skin, during embryonic stages) assume the role of the kidney in body fluid ionic homeostasis. Four types of ionocyte expressing distinct sets of transporters have been identified in these organs: H(+)-ATPase-rich, Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase-rich, Na(+)-Cl(-) cotransporter-expressing and K(+)-secreting cells; these ionocytes perform transepithelial H(+) secretion/Na(+) uptake/NH4 (+) excretion, Ca(2+) uptake, Na(+)/Cl(-) uptake, and K(+) secretion, respectively. Zebrafish ionocytes are analogous to various renal tubular cells, in terms of ion transporter expression and function. During embryonic development, ionocyte progenitors develop from epidermal stem cells and then differentiate into different types of ionocyte through a positive regulatory loop of Foxi3a/-3b and other transcription factors. Several hormones, including cortisol, vitamin D, stanniocalcin-1, calcitonin, and isotocin, were found to participate in the control pathways of ionic homeostasis by precisely studying the target ion transport pathways, ion transporters, or ionocytes of the hormonal actions. In conclusion, the zebrafish model not only enhances our understanding of body fluid ion homeostasis and hormonal control in fish but also informs studies on mammals and other animal species, thereby providing new insights into related fields.

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