Background: Zebrafish is becoming an important research tool for the analysis of brain function and behavior. It has been proposed to model human alcoholism as well as fetal alcohol syndrome. Previous studies investigating the consequences of exposure to ethanol during early development of zebrafish employed robust dosing regimens (high ethanol concentration and long exposure) that may model a rare situation in the human clinic. These studies found major structural abnormalities developing in the exposed fish.
Methods: Here we hope to avoid such gross changes and administer only low doses of ethanol (0.00, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, 1.00 vol/vol %) at 24-hour postfertilization and for only a short period of time (for 2 hours). We analyze the behavior of exposed fish at adult stage using computerized stimulus presentation and automated videotracking response quantification.
Results: Despite the short ethanol exposure period and the modest concentrations, significant behavioral alterations were found: fish exposed to higher doses of ethanol swam at an increased distance from a computer-animated zebrafish shoal while their activity levels did not change.
Conclusions: Although the interpretation of and the mechanisms underlying this finding will require further investigation, the results suggest that zebrafish will be an appropriate model organism for the analysis of the effects of moderate to mild prenatal ethanol exposure.