Manipulation of gene expression during zebrafish embryonic development using transient approaches

Methods Mol Biol. 2008;469:273-300. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-469-2_19.


The rapid embryonic development and high fecundity of zebrafish contribute to the great advantages of this model for the study of developmental genetics. Transient disruption of the normal function of a gene during development can be achieved by microinjecting mRNA, DNA or short chemically stabilized anti-sense oligomers, called morpholinos (MOs), into early zebrafish embryos. The ensuing develop ment of the microinjected embryos is observed over the following hours and days to analyze the impact of the microinjected products on embryogenesis. Compared to stable reverse genetic approaches (sta ble transgenesis, targeted mutants recovered by TILLING), these transient reverse genetic approaches are vastly quicker, relatively affordable, and require little animal facility space. Common applications of these methodologies allow analysis of gain-of-function (gene overexpression or dominant active), loss-of-function (gene knock down or dominant negative), mosaic analysis, lineage-restricted studies and cell tracing experiments. The use of these transient approaches for the manipulation of gene expression has improved our understanding of many key developmental pathways including both the Wnt/beta-catenin and Wnt/PCP pathways, as covered in some detail in Chapter 17 of this book. This chapter describes the most common and versatile approaches: gain of function and loss of function using DNA and mRNA injections and loss of function using MOs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods
  • Gene Targeting / methods*
  • Microinjections / methods
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins