Skeletal biology and disease modeling in zebrafish

Kristin Dietrich , Imke Fiedler, Anastasia Kurzyukova , Alejandra Cristina López-Delgado , Lucy M Mcgowan, Karina Geurtzen , Chrissy Hammond, Björn Busse*, Franziska Knopf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Zebrafish are teleosts (bony fish), which share with mammals a common ancestor belonging to the phylum Osteichtyes, from which their endoskeletal systems have been inherited. Indeed, teleosts and mammals have numerous genetically conserved features in terms of skeletal elements, ossification mechanisms and bone matrix components in common. Yet, differences related to bone morphology and function need to be considered when investigating zebrafish in skeletal research. In this review, we focus on zebrafish skeletal architecture with emphasis on the morphology of the vertebral column and associated anatomical structures. We provide an overview on the different ossification types and osseous cells in zebrafish and describe bone matrix composition at the microscopic tissue level with a focus on assessing mineralization. Processes of bone formation strongly depend on loading also in zebrafish, as we elaborate here. Furthermore, we illustrate the high regenerative capacity of zebrafish bones and present some of the technological advantages of using zebrafish as a model. We highlight zebrafish axial and fin skeleton patterning mechanisms, metabolic bone disease such as after immunosuppressive glucocorticoid treatment, as well as osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) and osteopetrosis research in zebrafish. We conclude with a view of why larval zebrafish xenografts are a powerful tool to study bone metastasis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-458
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • zebrafish
  • skeleton
  • regeneration
  • metasis
  • glucocorticoid

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