Identification of oxygen-sensitive neuroepithelial cells through an endogenous reporter gene in larval and adult transgenic zebrafish
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In teleost fish, specialized oxygen (O2) chemoreceptors, called neuroepithelial cells (NECs), are found in the gill epithelium in adults. During development, NECs are present in the skin before the formation of functional gills. NECs are known for retaining the monoamine neurotransmitter, serotonin (5-HT) and are conventionally identified through immunoreactivity with antibodies against 5-HT or synaptic vesicle protein (SV2). However, identification of NECs in live tissue and isolated cell preparations has been challenging due to the lack of a specific marker. The present study explored the use of the transgenic zebrafish, ETvmat2:GFP, which expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (vmat2) regulatory element, to identify NECs. Using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, we confirmed that the endogenous GFP in ETvmat2:GFP labelled serotonergic NECs in the skin of larvae and in the gills of adults. NECs of the gill filaments expressed a higher level of endogenous GFP compared with other cells. The endogenous GFP also labelled intrabranchial neurons of the gill filaments. Flow cytometric analysis demonstrated that filamental NECs could be distinguished from other dissociated gill cells based on high GFP expression alone. Acclimation to 2 weeks of severe hypoxia (PO2 = 35 mmHg) induced an increase in filamental NEC frequency, size and GFP gene expression. Here we present for the first time a transgenic tool that labels O2 chemoreceptors in an aquatic vertebrate and its use in high-throughput experimentation.
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