Skin too thin? The developing utility of zebrafish skin (neuro)pharmacology for CNS drug discovery research

Michael Nguyen, Manoj K. Poudel, Adam Michael Stewart, Allan V. Kalueff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Skin coloration can be affected by many genetic, environmental and pharmacological factors. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are a useful and versatile model organism in biomedical research due to their genetic tractability, physiological homology to mammals, low cost, reproducibility and high throughput. Zebrafish coloration is mediated by chromatophores - the skin color pigment cells largely controlled by endocrine and neural mechanisms. The characteristic darkening of zebrafish skin is caused by the dispersion (and paling - by aggregation) of melanosomes (pigment-containing organelles), which show high homology to mammalian structures. Various pharmacological agents potently affect zebrafish coloration - the phenotype that often accompanies behavioral effects of the drugs, and may be used for drug discovery. Although zebrafish behavior and skin responses are usually not directly related, they share common regulatory (neural, endocrine) mechanisms, and therefore may be assessed in parallel during psychotropic drug screening. For example, some psychoactive drugs can potently affect zebrafish skin coloration. Can we use this knowledge to refine phenotype-driven psychotropic drug discovery? Here, we present current models using zebrafish skin coloration assays, and discuss how these models may be applied to enhance in vivo CNS drug discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-154
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Coloration
  • In vivo screens
  • Melanophore
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Skin
  • Zebrafish


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