The role of alpha7 and alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptors in the nicotine-induced anxiolytic effect in zebrafish

Physiol Behav. 2008 Oct 20;95(3):408-12. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.07.009. Epub 2008 Jul 12.


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have been widely used to study the molecular mechanisms of development including neurodevelopment. More recently, they have begun to be used to study neuropharmacology and neurotoxicology. Critical for this line of research are methods to study behavioral function in zebrafish. Previous studies have compared zebrafish with mammalian models to determine similarities and differences in locomotor behavior, learning and memory. Relatively little research has been conducted on stress response and anxiety behavior as well as the pharmacologic response in zebrafish. We have developed a test for zebrafish to assess stress response and anxiety: the novel tank diving test. In this short test normally zebrafish dive to the bottom of a novel tank and then gradually over the 5-min test begin exploring higher levels of the tank. Nicotine, which has anxiolytic effects in rodents and humans was found to diminish this novel tank diving response in zebrafish. The current study examined the nicotinic receptor subtype selectivity involved in the actions of nicotine. Two nicotinic receptor subtype selective antagonists were used: MLA (an alpha7 antagonist) and DHbetaE (an alpha4beta2 antagonist). We replicated our previous finding of the anxiolytic effect of nicotine with significantly less bottom dwelling by the fish after nicotine treatment. This nicotine-induced anxiolytic effect was reversed by both MLA and DHbetaE, indicating that both nicotinic alpha7 and alpha4beta2 receptors are involved in the nicotinic effect on anxiety in zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aconitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Aconitine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Dihydro-beta-Erythroidine / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Immobility Response, Tonic / drug effects
  • Male
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Swimming
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • chrna7 protein, zebrafish
  • methyllycaconitine
  • Dihydro-beta-Erythroidine
  • Nicotine
  • Aconitine