The zebrafish scale as model to study the bone mineralization process

J Mol Histol. 2012 Oct;43(5):589-95. doi: 10.1007/s10735-012-9425-z. Epub 2012 Jun 4.


Danio rerio (zebrafish) shows high similarity with humans in terms of bone architecture, bone cells, matrix proteins and molecular signalling. The fish body is covered by elasmoid scales which are part of the dermal skeleton. Since few data have been published about the function of the fish scale cells, we investigated the mineralization pattern of the scale and the role of the episquamal osteoblasts in the neodeposition of the bone tissue. First, we described a specific mineralization pattern and distribution of the bone forming cells in different areas of the scale. We observed along the external circuli that, during the scale growth, the marginal cells migrate and organize in a cord-like structure just before the mineralization process takes place generating a new circulus. These cells exhibit alkaline phosphatase activity, a well known mammalian osteoblastic differentiation marker. The internal circuli are also characterized by new matrix deposition. Thus, zebrafish scale represents a useful model for analyzing the osteoblast behaviour during bone formation and mineralization and it could be useful in physiological studies and pharmacological tests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Osteoblasts* / cytology
  • Osteoblasts* / metabolism
  • Osteoblasts* / physiology
  • Osteogenesis / physiology
  • Zebrafish* / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish* / growth & development


  • Alkaline Phosphatase