Transgenic zebrafish larvae as a non-rodent alternative model to assess pro-inflammatory (neutrophil) responses to nanomaterials

Suzanne Gillies, Rachel Verdon, Vicki Stone, David McAllister Brown, Theodore B. Henry, C. Lang Tran, Carl Tucker, Adriano G. Rossi, Charles R. Tyler, Helinor Jane Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Hazard studies for nanomaterials (NMs) commonly assess whether they activate an inflammatory response. Such assessments often rely on rodents, but alternative models are needed to support the implementation of the 3Rs principles. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) offer a viable alternative for screening NM toxicity by investigating inflammatory responses. Here, we used non-protected life stages of transgenic zebrafish (Tg(mpx:GFP) i114) with fluorescently-labeled neutrophils to assess inflammatory responses to silver (Ag) and zinc oxide (ZnO) NMs using two approaches. Zebrafish were exposed to NMs via water following a tail fin injury, or NMs were microinjected into the otic vesicle. Zebrafish were exposed to NMs at 3 days post-fertilization (dpf) and neutrophil accumulation at the injury or injection site was quantified at 0, 4, 6, 8, 24, and 48 h post-exposure. Zebrafish larvae were also exposed to fMLF, LTB 4, CXCL-8, C5a, and LPS to identify a suitable positive control for inflammation induction. Aqueous exposure to Ag and ZnO NMs stimulated an enhanced and sustained neutrophilic inflammatory response in injured zebrafish larvae, with a greater response observed for Ag NMs. Following microinjection, Ag NMs stimulated a time-dependent neutrophil accumulation in the otic vesicle which peaked at 48 h. LTB 4 was identified as a positive control for studies investigating inflammatory responses in injured zebrafish following aqueous exposure, and CXCL-8 for microinjection studies that assess responses in the otic vesicle. Our findings support the use of transgenic zebrafish to rapidly screen the pro-inflammatory effects of NMs, with potential for wider application in assessing chemical safety (e.g. pharmaceuticals).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-354
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Early online date7 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • 3Rs
  • Nanomaterial
  • inflammation
  • neutrophils
  • zebrafish larvae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Toxicology


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