Identification of slit3 as a locus affecting nicotine preference in zebrafish and human smoking behaviour

Elife. 2020 Mar 25;9:e51295. doi: 10.7554/eLife.51295.


To facilitate smoking genetics research we determined whether a screen of mutagenized zebrafish for nicotine preference could predict loci affecting smoking behaviour. From 30 screened F3 sibling groups, where each was derived from an individual ethyl-nitrosurea mutagenized F0 fish, two showed increased or decreased nicotine preference. Out of 25 inactivating mutations carried by the F3 fish, one in the slit3 gene segregated with increased nicotine preference in heterozygous individuals. Focussed SNP analysis of the human SLIT3 locus in cohorts from UK (n=863) and Finland (n=1715) identified two variants associated with cigarette consumption and likelihood of cessation. Characterisation of slit3 mutant larvae and adult fish revealed decreased sensitivity to the dopaminergic and serotonergic antagonist amisulpride, known to affect startle reflex that is correlated with addiction in humans, and increased htr1aa mRNA expression in mutant larvae. No effect on neuronal pathfinding was detected. These findings reveal a role for SLIT3 in development of pathways affecting responses to nicotine in zebrafish and smoking in humans.

Keywords: acoustic startle; conditioned place preference; gene association; neuroscience; nicotine; slit3; smoking; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amisulpride / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bupropion / pharmacology
  • Choice Behavior
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Loci
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / physiology
  • Tobacco Smoking / genetics*
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*


  • HTR1A protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SLIT3 protein, human
  • Slit3 protein, zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Bupropion
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Nicotine
  • Amisulpride