Special Issue "Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery"

A special issue of Pharmaceuticals (ISSN 1424-8247).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Yuhei Nishimura
Website
Guest Editor
Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Tsu, Japan
Interests: pharmacology; toxicology; integrative biology; zebrafish
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our scientific and technological knowledge has grown tremendously. The number of drugs approved per costs, however, has continuously decreased. Various approaches have emerged to increase the efficacy of research and development of new drugs. It has been widely recognized that zebrafish can be powerful tools in the drug discovery field, given advantages such as high fecundity, ease of drug administration, similarity to mammals in terms of structures and functions of various tissues, and suitability for the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). The process of drug development consists of multiple steps, including the initial discovery of drugs that can be used as therapeutics, preclinical and clinical validation of their efficacy and toxicity, and the review, approval, and post-marketing surveillance of drugs by regulatory authorities. Using genome-editing technologies, genetic abnormalities observed in human diseases can be mimicked in zebrafish to make a disease model. The phenotypes of the disease model zebrafish can be used to identify novel compounds and/or new indications for old drugs (i.e., drug repositioning) that ameliorate the abnormal phenotypes of the zebrafish disease models. The toxicity of compounds can also be assessed using zebrafish. In fact, the International Council for Harmonization has considered including developmental toxicity testing using zebrafish in their guidelines. Zebrafish can also be integrated to validate the efficacy and toxicities of compounds that are identified as novel therapeutics by other approaches, such as computational drug discovery using big data. In this Special Issue, we invite authors to contribute articles focusing on zebrafish as powerful tools for drug discovery. This research topic will maximize the knowledge of the usefulness of zebrafish in drug development, with hopes of increasing the efficiency of the process and identifying drugs that can be used to prevent and/or treat diseases for which effective medications are currently lacking.

Prof. Yuhei Nishimura
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • zebrafish
  • disease model
  • phenotype
  • drug repositioning
  • computational biology
  • toxicology

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Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
ZeOncoTest: Refining and Automating the Zebrafish Xenograft Model for Drug Discovery in Cancer
Pharmaceuticals 2020, 13(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph13010001 - 24 Dec 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The xenograft of human cancer cells in model animals is a powerful tool for understanding tumor progression and metastatic potential. Mice represent a validated host, but their use is limited by the elevated experimental costs and low throughput. To overcome these restrictions, zebrafish [...] Read more.
The xenograft of human cancer cells in model animals is a powerful tool for understanding tumor progression and metastatic potential. Mice represent a validated host, but their use is limited by the elevated experimental costs and low throughput. To overcome these restrictions, zebrafish larvae might represent a valuable alternative. Their small size and transparency allow the tracking of transplanted cells. Therefore, tumor growth and early steps of metastasis, which are difficult to evaluate in mice, can be addressed. In spite of its advantages, the use of this model has been hindered by lack of experimental homogeneity and validation. Considering these facts, the aim of our work was to standardize, automate, and validate a zebrafish larvae xenograft assay with increased translatability and higher drug screening throughput. The ZeOncoTest reliability is based on the optimization of different experimental parameters, such as cell labeling, injection site, automated individual sample image acquisition, and analysis. This workflow implementation finally allows a higher precision and experimental throughput increase, when compared to previous reports. The approach was validated with the breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231, the colorectal cancer cells HCT116, and the prostate cancer cells PC3; and known drugs, respectively RKI-1447, Docetaxel, and Mitoxantrone. The results recapitulate growth and invasion for all tested tumor cells, along with expected efficacy of the compounds. Finally, the methodology has proven useful for understanding specific drugs mode of action. The insights gained bring a step further for zebrafish larvae xenografts to enter the regulated preclinical drug discovery path. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Open AccessArticle
Libidibia ferrea (jucá), a Traditional Anti-Inflammatory: A Study of Acute Toxicity in Adult and Embryos Zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 175; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040175 - 30 Nov 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The plant species Libidibia ferrea (Mart. ex Tul.) LP Queiroz var. ferrea basionym of Caesalpinia ferrea (Mart. ex Tul.) is used in various regions of Brazil in folk medicine in the treatment of several health problems, especially in acute and chronic inflammatory processes. [...] Read more.
The plant species Libidibia ferrea (Mart. ex Tul.) LP Queiroz var. ferrea basionym of Caesalpinia ferrea (Mart. ex Tul.) is used in various regions of Brazil in folk medicine in the treatment of several health problems, especially in acute and chronic inflammatory processes. Most of the preparations employed are alcoholic. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the acute toxicity of the hydroethanolic extract of fruits of Libidibia ferrea (EHEFLf) in zebrafish, emphasizing the possible changes in the organic-cellular level of the gills, liver, kidneys, and intestine and on embryos. The result obtained by LC-M/MS from EHEFLf indicated a high concentration of possible polyhydroxylated substances. EHEFLf, at a dose of 2 g/kg orally, produced non-significant alterations of the analyzed organs. However, for embryos, the treatment with different concentrations demonstrated heart toxicity that was concentration-dependent. There is no evidence of a correlation of the observed effects with the phytochemical composition, and considering the species of animal used, it can be suggested that the oral use of L. ferrea hydroethanolic extract has an acceptable degree of safety for use as an oral medicinal product. and embryo results have shown significant affinity to the heart; however, it is perceived to be related to the concentrations used. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Open AccessArticle
Acute Toxicity of the Hydroethanolic Extract of the Flowers of Acmella oleracea L. in Zebrafish (Danio rerio): Behavioral and Histopathological Studies
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 173; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040173 - 27 Nov 2019
Abstract
Hydroethanolic preparations of the botanical species Acmella oleracea L. are used in the north of Brazil for the treatment of various diseases. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate the toxicity of this species. The objective of this study was to evaluate [...] Read more.
Hydroethanolic preparations of the botanical species Acmella oleracea L. are used in the north of Brazil for the treatment of various diseases. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate the toxicity of this species. The objective of this study was to evaluate the acute toxicity of the hydroethanolic extract of A. oleracea L. (EHFAo) flowers in zebrafish by immersion and oral administration. The extract was analyzed by ultra-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (UPLC–MS). EHFAo was administered orally (44.457, 88.915, 199.94, 281.83, and 448.81 mg/kg) and by immersion (250, 300, 350, 400, and 450 µg/L). Behavioral and histopathological analysis of gills, liver, intestine, and kidney were performed. The presence of (2E,6Z,8E)-N-isobutyl-2,6,8-decatrienamide (spilanthol) in EHFAo was identified by ultra-high-re.solution liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (UHPLC–ESI-MS). Treatment with EHFAo caused significant behavioral changes and death. The calculated median lethal dose (LD50) was 148.42 mg/kg, and the calculated median lethal concentration (LC50) was 320 μg/L. In the histopathological study, it was observed that upon oral treatment, the tissue alterations that compromised the normal functioning of the organism occurred with EHFAo doses of 88.915, 199.53, and 281.83 mg/kg, the intestine being the most affected. When the treatment was performed by immersion, the most toxic EHFAo concentrations according to the histopathological evaluation were 300, 350, and 400 μg/L, with the most affected organ being the gills. Finally, EHFAo in this study was shown to be more toxic to the liver, intestine, and kidneys when administered orally and to gills, liver, and kidneys when administered by immersion in water. Therefore, considering the results obtained and the chemical characteristics of the main phytochemical marker of EHFAo, spilanthol, it can be suggested that, depending on the dose, this compound can lead to histopathological damages in the organs highlighted in this study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Open AccessArticle
Bucillamine Prevents Afatinib-Mediated Inhibition of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Signaling
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 165; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040165 - 07 Nov 2019
Abstract
Molecular targeting therapies often cause characteristic adverse effects, such as skin rash during anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapies, making treatment continuation difficult. In contrast, skin symptoms induced by EGFR inhibition are strongly correlated with the overall survival of the therapies. Therefore, controlling [...] Read more.
Molecular targeting therapies often cause characteristic adverse effects, such as skin rash during anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapies, making treatment continuation difficult. In contrast, skin symptoms induced by EGFR inhibition are strongly correlated with the overall survival of the therapies. Therefore, controlling adverse effects not only facilitates treatment continuation but also increases clinical benefits. In this study, we proposed a novel strategy for reducing EGFR–tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-induced adverse effects in nontumorous organs by repositioning approved medicines using a zebrafish model. We developed a model system for evaluating chemical quenchers of afatinib, a clinically available irreversible EGFR-TKI, by scoring the inhibition of afatinib-induced hyperformation of lateral line neuromasts in zebrafish larvae. Bucillamine, an antirheumatic drug, was identified as an afatinib quencher in the zebrafish system and inhibited TKI activity in vitro. In addition, bucillamine restored EGFR autophosphorylation and downstream signaling in afatinib-treated A431 cells. Thus, topical bucillamine is a potential reliever of irreversible EGFR-TKI-induced skin rash. The zebrafish model can be applied to a screening for quenchers of other anti-EGFR-targeting therapies, including reversible TKIs and biologics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Open AccessArticle
C3orf70 Is Involved in Neural and Neurobehavioral Development
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 156; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040156 - 16 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Neurogenesis is the process by which undifferentiated progenitor cells develop into mature and functional neurons. Defects in neurogenesis are associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders; therefore, elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying neurogenesis can advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of these disorders and [...] Read more.
Neurogenesis is the process by which undifferentiated progenitor cells develop into mature and functional neurons. Defects in neurogenesis are associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders; therefore, elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying neurogenesis can advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of these disorders and facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutic targets. In this study, we performed a comparative transcriptomic analysis to identify common targets of the proneural transcription factors Neurog1/2 and Ascl1 during neurogenesis of human and mouse stem cells. We successfully identified C3orf70 as a novel common target gene of Neurog1/2 and Ascl1 during neurogenesis. Using in situ hybridization, we demonstrated that c3orf70a and c3orf70b, two orthologs of C3orf70, were expressed in the midbrain and hindbrain of zebrafish larvae. We generated c3orf70 knockout zebrafish using CRISPR/Cas9 technology and demonstrated that loss of c3orf70 resulted in significantly decreased expression of the mature neuron markers elavl3 and eno2. We also found that expression of irx3b, a zebrafish ortholog of IRX3 and a midbrain/hindbrain marker, was significantly reduced in c3orf70 knockout zebrafish. Finally, we demonstrated that neurobehaviors related to circadian rhythm and altered light–dark conditions were significantly impaired in c3orf70 knockout zebrafish. These results suggest that C3orf70 is involved in neural and neurobehavioral development and that defects in C3orf70 may be associated with midbrain/hindbrain-related neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Open AccessArticle
Generation of a Triple-Transgenic Zebrafish Line for Assessment of Developmental Neurotoxicity during Neuronal Differentiation
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040145 - 24 Sep 2019
Abstract
The developing brain is extremely sensitive to many chemicals. Exposure to neurotoxicants during development has been implicated in various neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Various screening methods have been used to assess the developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) of chemicals, [...] Read more.
The developing brain is extremely sensitive to many chemicals. Exposure to neurotoxicants during development has been implicated in various neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Various screening methods have been used to assess the developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) of chemicals, with most assays focusing on cell viability, apoptosis, proliferation, migration, neuronal differentiation, and neuronal network formation. However, assessment of toxicity during progenitor cell differentiation into neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes often requires immunohistochemistry, which is a reliable but labor-intensive and time-consuming assay. Here, we report the development of a triple-transgenic zebrafish line that expresses distinct fluorescent proteins in neurons (Cerulean), astrocytes (mCherry), and oligodendrocytes (mCitrine), which can be used to detect DNT during neuronal differentiation. Using in vivo fluorescence microscopy, we could detect DNT by 6 of the 10 neurotoxicants tested after exposure to zebrafish from 12 h to 5 days’ post-fertilization. Moreover, the chemicals could be clustered into three main DNT groups based on the fluorescence pattern: (i) inhibition of neuron and oligodendrocyte differentiation and stimulation of astrocyte differentiation; (ii) inhibition of neuron and oligodendrocyte differentiation; and (iii) inhibition of neuron and astrocyte differentiation, which suggests that reporter expression reflects the toxicodynamics of the chemicals. Thus, the triple-transgenic zebrafish line developed here may be a useful tool to assess DNT during neuronal differentiation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Zebrafish Models of Diamond-Blackfan Anemia: A Tool for Understanding the Disease Pathogenesis and Drug Discovery
Pharmaceuticals 2019, 12(4), 151; https://doi.org/10.3390/ph12040151 - 09 Oct 2019
Abstract
Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a rare bone marrow failure syndrome characterized by red blood cell aplasia. Currently, mutations in 19 ribosomal protein genes have been identified in patients. However, the pathogenic mechanism of DBA remains unknown. Recently, several DBA models were generated in [...] Read more.
Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a rare bone marrow failure syndrome characterized by red blood cell aplasia. Currently, mutations in 19 ribosomal protein genes have been identified in patients. However, the pathogenic mechanism of DBA remains unknown. Recently, several DBA models were generated in zebrafish (Danio rerio) to elucidate the molecular pathogenesis of disease and to explore novel treatments. Zebrafish have strong advantages in drug discovery due to their rapid development and transparency during embryogenesis and their applicability to chemical screens. Together with mice, zebrafish have now become a powerful tool for studying disease mechanisms and drug discovery. In this review, we introduce recent advances in DBA drug development and discuss the usefulness of zebrafish as a disease model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish as a Powerful Tool for Drug Discovery)
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