In vivo assessment of gonad status, secondary sex characteristics and spawning in transparent Casper zebrafish


Important aspects of vertebrate reproduction, such as gametogenesis, involve changes in organs found deep internally and thus not easily studied directly in most living vertebrates due to obscuring pigment and overlying tissues. Transparent lines of zebrafish, especially the Casper double mutant, allow direct observation and analysis of reproductive events in the gonads in vivo. The natural production of fertilized eggs in zebrafish is a complex process involving oogenesis, spermatogenesis, mating behavior, endocrine and neurological processes with inputs from the environment including light, temperature and nutrition. While these factors play important roles, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPGA) is central in the regulation of embryo output. Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) include a variety of pollutants often present in the environment. EDCs may have direct effects on the HPGA or indirect effects through toxic action on supporting organs such as the liver or kidney. Estrogenic compounds such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) have been reported to affect reproduction in a variety of species including man. In this study, the effects of DES on reproduction were determined in a novel way by using transparent Casper zebrafish that allow direct visualization of gonad status over time. Changes in gonad status with DES treatment were correlated with effects on secondary sex characteristics (i.e., genital vent size and breeding tubercles) spawning and embryo production. The results suggest that the Casper zebrafish is a useful model for studying dynamics of reproductive events in vertebrate gonads in vivo and for determining effects of EDCs on zebrafish reproduction.

Publication Title

Mechanisms of Development