Developmental age strengthens barriers to ethanol accumulation in zebrafish

Alcohol. 2014 Sep;48(6):595-602. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2014.06.003. Epub 2014 Jun 8.


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) describes a wide range of phenotypic defects affecting facial and neurological development associated with ethanol teratogenicity. It affects approximately 1 in 100 children born in the United States each year. Genetic predisposition along with timing and dosage of ethanol exposure are critical in understanding the prevalence and variability of FASD. The zebrafish attributes of external fertilization, genetic tractability, and high fecundity make it a powerful tool for FASD studies. However, a lack of consensus of ethanol treatment paradigms has limited the interpretation of these various studies. Here we address this concern by examining ethanol tissue concentrations across timing and genetic background. We utilize headspace gas chromatography to determine ethanol concentration in the AB, fli1:EGFP, and Tu backgrounds. In addition, we treated these embryos with ethanol over two different developmental time windows, 6-24 h post fertilization (hpf) and 24-48 hpf. Our analysis demonstrates that embryos rapidly equilibrate to a sub-media level of ethanol. Embryos then maintain this level of ethanol for the duration of exposure. The ethanol tissue concentration level is independent of genetic background, but is timing-dependent. Embryos exposed from 6 to 24 hpf were 2.7-4.2-fold lower than media levels, while embryos were 5.7-6.2-fold lower at 48 hpf. This suggests that embryos strengthen one or more barriers to ethanol as they develop. In addition, both the embryo and, to a lesser extent, the chorion, surrounding the embryo are barriers to ethanol. Overall, this work will help tighten ethanol treatment regimens and strengthen zebrafish as a model of FASD.

Keywords: Ethanol tissue concentration; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; Zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / etiology
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Ethanol