Pickart, M.A., Sivasubbu, S., Nielsen, A.L., Shriram, S., King, R.A., and Ekker, S.C. (2004) Functional genomics tools for the analysis of zebrafish pigment. Pigment Cell Res.. 17(5):461-470.
Genetic model organisms are increasingly valuable in the post-genomics era to provide a basis for comparative analysis of the human genome. For higher order processes of vertebrate pigment cell biology and development, the mouse has historically been the model of choice. A complementary organism, the zebrafish (Danio rerio), shares many of the signaling and biological processes of vertebrates, e.g. neural crest development. The zebrafish has a number of characteristics that make it an especially valuable model for the study of pigment cell biology and disease. Large-scale genetic screens have identified a collection of pigmentation mutants that have already made valuable contributions to pigment research. An increasing repertoire of genomic resources such as an expressed sequence tag-based Gene Index (The Institute for Genomic Research) and improving methods of mutagenesis, transgenesis, and gene targeting make zebrafish a particularly attractive model. Morpholino phosphorodiamidate oligonucleotide (MO) 'knockdown' of pigment gene expression provides a non-conventional antisense tool for the analysis of genes involved in pigment cell biology and disease. In addition, an ongoing, reverse-genetic, MO-based screen for the rapid identification of gene function promises to be a valuable complement to other high-throughput microarray and proteomic approaches for understanding pigment cell biology. Novel reagents for zebrafish transgenesis, such as the Sleeping Beauty transposon system, continue to improve the capacity for genetic analysis in this system and ensure that the zebrafish will be a valuable genetic model for understanding a variety of biological processes and human diseases for years to come.