Transparent Danionella translucida as a genetically tractable vertebrate brain model

Nat Methods. 2018 Nov;15(11):977-983. doi: 10.1038/s41592-018-0144-6. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


Understanding how distributed neuronal circuits integrate sensory information and generate behavior is a central goal of neuroscience. However, it has been difficult to study neuronal networks at single-cell resolution across the entire adult brain in vertebrates because of their size and opacity. We address this challenge here by introducing the fish Danionella translucida to neuroscience as a potential model organism. This teleost remains small and transparent even in adulthood, when neural circuits and behavior have matured. Despite having the smallest known adult vertebrate brain, D. translucida displays a rich set of complex behaviors, including courtship, shoaling, schooling, and acoustic communication. In order to carry out optical measurements and perturbations of neural activity with genetically encoded tools, we established CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing and Tol2 transgenesis techniques. These features make D. translucida a promising model organism for the study of adult vertebrate brain function at single-cell resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cyprinidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Cyprinidae / physiology*
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Models, Animal
  • Nerve Net
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurons / physiology*