A humble response to Why Danio rerio?

Dick Vogt vogt at tbone.biol.scarolina.edu
Thu Jul 21 19:07:44 EST 1994

gnnavtel at gpu.utcc.utoronto.ca (Richard J. Sexton) writes:

>Obligatory Brachydanio content: Why is B. rerio used for study not any
>other member of the genus ?

Humble answer...
Stuff happens.  This would be better answered by some folks at University 
of Oregon, though I was an outsider looking in at several times during 
this story, so a briefest view (and I hope the folks at Oregon will 
forgive me if some of these details are not completely correct).

For what ever reason (or probably several) George Streisenger chose what 
was then called Brachydanio rerio for an extended research project; to 
develop a vertebrate into a model organism for studying the genetics of 
early development.  At the time of his death in the early 70's, 
tremendous progress had been made in establishing the necessary ground 
work for doing the necessary work with this species.  Folks at University 
of Oregon were faced with a problem: do they take advantage of a system 
with high potential that Streisenger had left them, or do they let it 
slide.  In what was truely a remarkable effort to watch first hand, 
several laboratories began (rapidly) to focus their research efforts on 
this organism.  And in a testament to the quality of (what is now called) 
Danio rerio as a research tool, this research effort has truly exploded 
(to the point that the research community asked for increased lines of 
communication and information transfer).

There are many things that make an organism a good one to work with 
experimentally.  Most animals (fish, insects, mammals, whatever) are 
simply not suitable to manipulation (rearing in the lab, doing 
appropriate experiments, whatever).  And then, if you choose to invest 
time in working with a specific organisms, it is enormously helpful if 
there exists a background of information on that species and on the 
problem you are pursuing.  Danio rerio has proven to be extremely 
amenable to research AND the information concerning both its use and its 
biology (molecular, developmental, cellular, etc) is large and growing 
larger.  These features make the animal an attractive one to work with.

None of this speaks against working with other organisms in any manner.  
An enormous ammount of recent work on D. rerio is coming from labs with 
backgrounds in Drosophila; labs asking similar questions of both 
systems, insect and vertebrate.  And in a comparative or 
evolutionary sense, D. rerio, can provide molecules and other information 
useful for export into other species.  And frankly, information on other 
species has and is useful to work on zebrafish.

Well, these views may be pretty personal to myself, but I hope they 
provide some answer to your question.

Richard Vogt (Internet: vogt at biol.scarolina.edu) (803) 777-8998
Department of Biology, University of South Carolina, Columbia SC 29208

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