Zebrafish models relevant to studying central opioid and endocannabinoid systems

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Abstract

The endocannabinoid and opioid systems are two interplaying neurotransmitter systems that modulate drug abuse, anxiety, pain, cognition, neurogenesis and immune activity. Although they are involved in such critical functions, our understanding of endocannabinoid and opioid physiology remains limited, necessitating further studies, novel models and new model organisms in this field. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is rapidly emerging as one of the most effective translational models in neuroscience and biological psychiatry. Due to their high physiological and genetic homology to humans, zebrafish may be effectively used to study the endocannabinoid and opioid systems. Here, we discuss current models used to target the endocannabinoid and opioid systems in zebrafish, and their potential use in future translational research and high-throughput drug screening. Emphasizing the high degree of conservation of the endocannabinoid and opioid systems in zebrafish and mammals, we suggest zebrafish as an excellent model organism to study these systems and to search for the new drugs and therapies targeting their evolutionarily conserved mechanisms.

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