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Methods Cell Biol. 2017;138:61-100. doi: 10.1016/bs.mcb.2016.11.005.

Best practices for germ-free derivation and gnotobiotic zebrafish husbandry.

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University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, Unites States.
Duke University, Durham, NC, United States.
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, Unites States; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, ON, Canada.


All animals are ecosystems with resident microbial communities, referred to as microbiota, which play profound roles in host development, physiology, and evolution. Enabled by new DNA sequencing technologies, there is a burgeoning interest in animal-microbiota interactions, but dissecting the specific impacts of microbes on their hosts is experimentally challenging. Gnotobiology, the study of biological systems in which all members are known, enables precise experimental analysis of the necessity and sufficiency of microbes in animal biology by deriving animals germ-free (GF) and inoculating them with defined microbial lineages. Mammalian host models have long dominated gnotobiology, but we have recently adapted gnotobiotic approaches to the zebrafish (Danio rerio), an important aquatic model. Zebrafish offer several experimental attributes that enable rapid, large-scale gnotobiotic experimentation with high replication rates and exquisite optical resolution. Here we describe detailed protocols for three procedures that form the foundation of zebrafish gnotobiology: derivation of GF embryos, microbial association of GF animals, and long-term, GF husbandry. Our aim is to provide sufficient guidance in zebrafish gnotobiotic methodology to expand and enrich this exciting field of research.


Axenic; Bacterial colonization; Germ-free; Gnotobiotic; Husbandry; Microbiome; Microbiota; Sterile; Zebrafish

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