Filippi, A., Mahler, J., Schweitzer, J., and Driever, W. (2010) Expression of the paralogous tyrosine hydroxylase encoding genes th1 and th2 reveals the full complement of dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons in zebrafish larval and juvenile brain. The Journal of comparative neurology. 518(4):423-438.
The development of dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons has received much attention based on their modulatory effect on many behavioral circuits and their involvement in neurodegenerative diseases. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has emerged as a new model organism with which to study development and function of catecholaminergic systems. Tyrosine hydroxylase is the entry enzyme into catecholamine biosynthesis and is frequently used as a marker for catecholaminergic neurons. A genome duplication at the base of teleost evolution resulted in two paralogous zebrafish tyrosine hydroxylase-encoding genes, th1 and th2, the expression of which has been described previously only for th1. Here we investigate the expression of th2 in the brain of embryonic and juvenile zebrafish. We optimized whole-mount in situ hybridization protocols to detect gene expression in the anatomical three-dimensional context of whole juvenile brains. To confirm whether th2-expressing cells may indeed use dopamine as a neurotransmitter, we also included expression of dopamine beta hydroxylase, dopa decarboxylase, and dopamine transporter in our analysis. Our data provide the first complete account of catecholaminergic neurons in the zebrafish embryonic and juvenile brain. We identified four major th2-expressing neuronal groups that likely use dopamine as transmitter in the zebrafish diencephalon, including neurons of the posterior preoptic nucleus, the paraventricular organ, and the nuclei of the lateral and posterior recesses in the caudal hypothalamus. th2 Expression in the latter two groups resolves a previously reported discrepancy, in which strong dopamine but little tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity had been detected in the caudal hypothalamus. Our data also confirm that there are no mesencephalic DA neurons in zebrafish.