From fish to cells: Establishment of continuous cell lines from embryos of annual killifish Nothobranchius furzeri and N. kadleci

Aquat Toxicol. 2023 Jun;259:106517. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2023.106517. Epub 2023 Apr 1.


There is a growing need of alternative experimental models that avoid or minimize the use of animals due to ethical, economical, and scientific reasons. Surprisingly, the stable embryonic cell lines representing Nothobranchius spp., emerging vertebrate models in aging research, regenerative medicine, ecotoxicology, or genomics, have been not derived so far. This paper reports establishment and deep characterization of ten continuous cell lines from annual killifish embryos of N. furzeri and N. kadleci. The established cell lines exhibited mostly fibroblast- and epithelial-like morphology and steady growth rates with cell doubling time ranging from 27 to 40 h. All cell lines retained very similar characteristics even after continuous subcultivation (more than 100 passages) and extended storage in liquid nitrogen (∼3 years). The cytogenetic analysis of the cell lines revealed a diploid chromosome number mostly equal to 38 elements (i.e., the native chromosome count for both killifish species), with minor but diverse line/passage-specific karyotype changes compared to the patterns observed in non-cultured N. furzeri and N. kadleci somatic cells. Based on transcriptional analysis of marker genes, the cell lines displayed features of an undifferentiated state without signs of senescence even in advanced passages. We confirmed that the cell lines are transfectable and can form viable 3-D spheroids. The applicability of the cell lines for (eco)toxicological surveys was confirmed by assessing the effect of cytotoxic and growth inhibitory agents. Properties of established Nothobranchius embryonic cell lines open new possibilities for the application of this model in various fields of life sciences including molecular mechanisms of aging, karyotype (in)stability or differences in lifespan.

Keywords: 3-D spheroid; Cell line; Embryo; Karyotype; Killifish; Nothobranchius.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cyprinodontiformes* / genetics
  • Fundulidae* / genetics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical

Supplementary concepts

  • Nothobranchius furzeri