Characterization of trace metal content in the developing zebrafish embryo. Academic Article uri icon


  • Trace metals are essential for health but toxic when present in excess. The maintenance of trace metals at physiologic levels reflects both import and export by cells and absorption and excretion by organs. The mechanism by which this maintenance is achieved in vertebrate organisms is incompletely understood. To explore this, we chose zebrafish as our model organism, as they are amenable to both pharmacologic and genetic manipulation and comprise an ideal system for genetic screens and toxicological studies. To characterize trace metal content in developing zebrafish, we measured levels of three trace elements, copper, zinc, and manganese, from the oocyte stage to 30 days post-fertilization using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Our results indicate that metal levels are stable until zebrafish can acquire metals from the environment and imply that the early embryo relies on maternal contribution of metals to the oocyte. We also measured metal levels in bodies and yolks of embryos reared in presence and absence of the copper chelator neocuproine. All three metals exhibited different relative abundances between yolks and bodies of embryos. While neocuproine treatment led to an expected phenotype of copper deficiency, total copper levels were unaffected, indicating that measurement of total metal levels does not equate with measurement of biologically active metal levels. Overall, our data not only can be used in the design and execution of genetic, physiologic, and toxicologic studies but also has implications for the understanding of vertebrate metal homeostasis.

publication date

  • 2017