Building neurophenomics in zebrafish: Effects of prior testing stress and test batteries

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The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a promising model organism for neurophenomics – a new field of neuroscience linking neural phenotypes to various genetic and environmental factors. However, the effects of prior experimental manipulations on zebrafish performance in different behavioral paradigms remain unclear. Here, we examine the influence of selected stressful procedures and test batteries on adult zebrafish anxiety-like behaviors in two commonly used models – the novel tank (NTT) and the light-dark box (LDB) tests. While no overt behavioral differences between outbred short-fin wild-type (WT) and mutant ‘pink’ glowfish were seen in both tests under baseline (control) conditions, an acute severe stressor (a 30-min car transportation) detected significantly lower mutant fish anxiety-like behavior in these tests. In contrast, WT zebrafish showed no overt NTT or LDB responses following a mild stressor (5-min 40-Wt light) exposure, also showing no differences in batteries of NTT and LDB run immediately one after another, or with a 1-day interval. Collectively, these findings suggest that zebrafish may be relatively less sensitive (e.g., than other popular species, such as rodents) to the test battery effect, and show that stronger stressors may be needed (to complement low-to-moderate stress aquatic screens) to better reveal phenotypical variance in zebrafish assays. Strengthening the value of zebrafish models in neurophenotyping research, this study indicates the potential of using more test batteries and a wider spectrum of pre-test stressors in zebrafish behavioral assays.

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