Researcher finds new role for zebrafish in human studies

May 19, 2010

Michael E. Baker, PhD, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has discovered that zebrafish - an important animal model in disease and environmental studies - could provide the means to help scientists eventually reveal the function of a mysterious enzyme linked to the steroid cortisol, and found in the human brain.

In people and other vertebrates, steroids like cortisol perform a variety of diverse duties, including regulating immune response, bone formation and . Too much cortisol, however, is unhealthy. High levels of the steroid have been linked to and may impair the brain's ability to store memories.

The human body regulates cortisol by employing an enzyme called 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-type 1 or 11beta-HSD1, which catalyzes the synthesis of cortisol in liver and . A related enzyme known as 11 beta-HSD-type3 or 11 beta-HSD3 is expressed in the brain, though its utility remains unknown.

In new findings to be published in the June 3 issue of FEBS Letters, Baker, a research professor of medicine who works in the division of nephrology-hypertension at UC San Diego's School of Medicine, reports that 11 beta-HSD3 (but not 11 beta-HSD1) is present in zebrafish, where it appears to serve an important role in fish endocrine physiology.

That makes the fish a potentially useful analog for studies, including discovering the purpose and function of 11 beta-HSD3 in human brains, which may be an evolutionary precursor to 11 beta-HSD1.

Interestingly, Baker found that the genomes of mice and rats do not contain 11 beta-HSD3, which means that inserting the appropriate gene for the enzyme in these animal models could provide additional avenues of investigation.

Explore further: Scientists Develop New Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

Related Stories

Alzheimer's prevention role discovered for prions

July 3, 2007

A role for prion proteins, the much debated agents of mad cow disease and vCJD, has been identified. It appears that the normal prions produced by the body help to prevent the plaques that build up in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s ...

How the APOE gene can modify your risk for Alzheimer's disease

November 13, 2008

One of the hallmarks of the brain of an individual with Alzheimer disease is the accumulation of amyloid-beta peptide (A-beta), something that is believed to be toxic to many brain cells (specifically neurons) and to therefore ...

Amyloid beta protein gets bum rap

November 9, 2009

While too much amyloid beta protein in the brain is linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease, not enough of the protein in healthy brains can cause learning problems and forgetfulness, Saint Louis University scientists ...

Recommended for you

Cell aging slowed by putting brakes on noisy transcription

July 30, 2015

Working with yeast and worms, researchers found that incorrect gene expression is a hallmark of aged cells and that reducing such "noise" extends lifespan in these organisms. The team published their findings this month in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.