Benard, E.L., van der Sar, A.M., Ellett, F., Lieschke, G.J., Spaink, H.P., and Meijer, A.H. (2012) Infection of zebrafish embryos with intracellular bacterial pathogens. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. (61).
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos are increasingly used as a model for studying the function of the vertebrate innate immune system in host-pathogen interactions 1. The major cell types of the innate immune system, macrophages and neutrophils, develop during the first days of embryogenesis prior to the maturation of lymphocytes that are required for adaptive immune responses. The ease of obtaining large numbers of embryos, their accessibility due to external development, the optical transparency of embryonic and larval stages, a wide range of genetic tools, extensive mutant resources and collections of transgenic reporter lines, all add to the versatility of the zebrafish model. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. typhimurium) and Mycobacterium marinum can reside intracellularly in macrophages and are frequently used to study host-pathogen interactions in zebrafish embryos. The infection processes of these two bacterial pathogens are interesting to compare because S. typhimurium infection is acute and lethal within one day, whereas M. marinum infection is chronic and can be imaged up to the larval stage 2, 3. The site of micro-injection of bacteria into the embryo (Figure 1) determines whether the infection will rapidly become systemic or will initially remain localized. A rapid systemic infection can be established by micro-injecting bacteria directly into the blood circulation via the caudal vein at the posterior blood island or via the Duct of Cuvier, a wide circulation channel on the yolk sac connecting the heart to the trunk vasculature. At 1 dpf, when embryos at this stage have phagocytically active macrophages but neutrophils have not yet matured, injecting into the blood island is preferred. For injections at 2-3 dpf, when embryos also have developed functional (myeloperoxidase-producing) neutrophils, the Duct of Cuvier is preferred as the injection site. To study directed migration of myeloid cells towards local infections, bacteria can be injected into the tail muscle, otic vesicle, or hindbrain ventricle 4-6. In addition, the notochord, a structure that appears to be normally inaccessible to myeloid cells, is highly susceptible to local infection 7. A useful alternative for high-throughput applications is the injection of bacteria into the yolk of embryos within the first hours after fertilization 8. Combining fluorescent bacteria and transgenic zebrafish lines with fluorescent macrophages or neutrophils creates ideal circumstances for multi-color imaging of host-pathogen interactions. This video article will describe detailed protocols for intravenous and local infection of zebrafish embryos with S. typhimurium or M. marinum bacteria and for subsequent fluorescence imaging of the interaction with cells of the innate immune system.