Introduction to zebrafish as a model for studying basement membranes

The zebrafish is a highly tractable vertebrate model for the study of embryogenesis and the modelling of human disease. The ease and cheapness of their husbandry coupled with high fecundity (each female can lay 200-300 eggs per week) and ex utero development of optically transparent embryos makes zebrafish an ideal experimental model.

In particular, zebrafish have become a popular system to study vertebrate gene function. The zebrafish genome-sequencing project was initiated at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in 2001 and showed that >70% of human genes have at least one orthologue in zebrafish.

The use of chemical mutagens, morpholino oligonucleotides and, more recently, CRISPR-Cas9 technology has enabled routine knockdowns and knockouts of specific genes to analyse for their function in the development and in disease modelling. Similar experiments have been used to highlight many roles for the basement membrane in the zebrafish, such as in axonal guidance, cancer metastasis, and epithelial sheet fusion.

Labs with a focus on basement membrane research

Martin Lab Inflammation in repair and cancer

Hammerschmidt Lab Vertebrate development and regeneration

Hibi Lab Type IV collagen control of cerebellum development

Henry Lab Muscle development in zebrafish

Ruggiero Lab Zebrafish matrisome lead

Currie Lab Skeletal muscle development

Helpful links

Key papers

  • Proteolytic and Opportunistic Breaching of the Basement Membrane Zone by Immune Cells during Tumor Initiation. Van den Berg, MCW et al. Cell Rep. 2019 Jun 4. PMID: 31167131
  • Type IV Collagen Controls the Axogenesis of Cerebellar Granule Cells by Regulating Basement Membrane Integrity in Zebrafish. Takeuchi, M et al. PLoS Genet. 2015 Oct 9. PMID: 26451951
  • Basement membrane diseases in zebrafish. Feitosa, NM et al. Methods Cell Biol. 2011. PMID: 21951531
  • Zebrafish mutants identify an essential role for laminins in notochord formation. Parsons, MJ et al. Development. 2002 Jul. PMID: 12070089
  • The zebrafish candyfloss mutant implicates extracellular matrix adhesion failure in laminin alpha2-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy. Hall, TE et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 24. PMID: 17438294
  • Characterization of the laminin gene family and evolution in zebrafish. Sztal, T et al. Dev Dyn. 2011 Feb. PMID: 21246659