The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a recent addition to the genomic scientists repertoire of vertebrate animal model systems. Unlike simple invertebrates such as the fly or the nematode, this teleost maintains the biological and genomic complexity found in higher vertebrates. Furthermore, the zebrafish has many advantageous technical and genomic properties that open the door to experimental approaches not practical using more classical models. The zebrafish genome can be functionally accessed using both forward and reverse genetics based approaches. A notable recent addition to the zebrafish genomics toolbox is the development of morpholino-based antisense gene inhibition for sequence-based ‘knockdown’ screening. This method offers the opportunity to examine the role of significant subsets of the vertebrate genome for specific gene function in vivo. The zebrafish embryo can rapidly provide critical information for drug target discovery purposes when examined with an emphasis on clinically-relevant biological processes. Finally, the advent of chemical genetics in zebrafish suggests that, in addition to the identification and understanding of drug targets and their biology, this system will be a powerful tool in the direct development of novel pharmaceuticals in the near future.
Keywords: zebrafish, morpholino, gene discovery, functional genomics
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