Dissociation of food and opiate preference by a genetic mutation in zebrafish

Genes Brain Behav. 2006 Oct;5(7):497-505. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2005.00185.x.


Both natural rewards and addictive substances have the ability to reinforce behaviors. It has been unclear whether identical neural pathways mediate the actions of both. In addition, little is known about these behaviors and the underlying neural mechanisms in a genetically tractable vertebrate, the zebrafish Danio rerio. Using a conditioned place preference paradigm, we demonstrate that wildtype zebrafish exhibit a robust preference for food as well as the opiate drug morphine that can be blocked by the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone. Moreover, we show that the too few mutant, which disrupts a conserved zinc finger-containing gene and exhibits a reduction of selective groups of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons in the basal diencephalon, displays normal food preference but shows no preference for morphine. Pretreatment with dopamine receptor antagonists abolishes morphine preference in the wildtype. These studies demonstrate that zebrafish display measurable preference behavior for reward and show that the preference for natural reward and addictive drug is dissociable by a single-gene mutation that alters subregions of brain monoamine neurotransmitter systems. Future genetic analysis in zebrafish shall uncover further molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the formation and function of neural circuitry that regulate opiate and food preference behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Morphine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mutation
  • Naloxone / pharmacology
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / administration & dosage
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Reward*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Vision, Ocular / genetics
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / physiology*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zinc Fingers


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Serotonin
  • Naloxone
  • Morphine
  • Dopamine