Methods for the study of the zebrafish maxillary barbel

LeClair, E. E.; Topczewski, J.

J Vis Exp. 2009 Nov 26; (33)


Barbels are skin sensory appendages found in fishes, reptiles and amphibians. The zebrafish, Danio rerio, develops two pairs of barbels a short nasal pair and a longer maxillary pair. Barbel tissue contains cells of ectodermal, mesodermal and neural crest origin, including skin cells, glands, taste buds, melanocytes, circulatory vessels and sensory nerves. Unlike most adult tissue, the maxillary barbel is optically clear, allowing us to visualize the development and maintenance of these tissue types throughout the life cycle. This video shows early development of the maxillary barbel (beginning approximately one month post-fertilization) and demonstrates a surgical protocol to induce regeneration in the adult appendage (>3 months post-fertilization). Briefly, the left maxillary barbel of an anesthetized fish is elevated with sterile forceps just distal to the caudal edge of the maxilla. A fine, sterile spring scissors is positioned against the forceps to cut the barbel shaft at this level, establishing an anatomical landmark for the amputation plane. Regenerative growth can be measured with respect to this plane, and in comparison to the contralateral barbel. Barbel tissue regenerates rapidly, reaching maximal regrowth within 2 weeks of injury. Techniques for analyzing the regenerated barbel include dissecting and embedding matched pairs of barbels (regenerate and control) in the wells of a standard DNA electrophoresis gel. Embedded specimens are conveniently photographed under a stereomicroscope for gross morphology and morphometry, and can be stored for weeks prior to downstream applications such as paraffin histology, cryosectioning, and/or whole mount immunohistochemistry. These methods establish the maxillary barbel as a novel in vivo tissue system for studying the regenerative capacity of multiple cell types within the genetic context of zebrafish.

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