Zebrafish: a model system for the study of vertebrate renal development, function, and pathophysiology

Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2011 Jul;20(4):416-24. doi: 10.1097/MNH.0b013e3283477797.


Purpose of review: The zebrafish pronephros provides an informative vertebrate model system for studying renal development and function as well as a rapid screening tool for identification of genes important to the physiology and pathophysiology of the vertebrate kidney. To this end, the zebrafish pronephros is continuously being characterized and its relevance for the study of human diseases validated. This review summarizes recent advances in our current knowledge of the zebrafish pronephros as a valuable model system relevant to the study of human kidney biology and nephropathology.

Recent findings: Recent findings argue for conserved renal gene structure and function in the zebrafish pronephros and also elucidate the role of genes in kidney biology that were not possible to discern in other vertebrate model systems due to early lethality.

Summary: Abnormalities in podocyte gene function, renal ion channels and transporters, and renal epithelial primary cilia genes lead to defective pronephric kidney function in the zebrafish that mimics human disease. This supports the use of the zebrafish pronephros as a valid system to study kidney physiology and for rapid identification of potential therapeutic drugs and strategies in combating renal disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Kidney / embryology
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism*


  • Zebrafish Proteins