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Functional Aging and Gradual Senescence in Zebrafish



    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115-6084, USA
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Address for correspondence: Shuji Kishi, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115-6084. Voice: 617-632-4227; fax: 617-632-4770.


Abstract: Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has been recognized as a powerful model for genetic studies in developmental biology. Recently, the zebrafish system also has given insights into several human diseases such as neurodegenerative, hematopoietic, and cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Because aging processes affect these and various other human disorders, it is important to compare zebrafish and mammalian senescence. However, the aging process of zebrafish remains largely unexplored, and little is known about functional aging and senescence in zebrafish. In our initial studies to assess aging phenotypes in zebrafish, we have identified several potential aging biomarkers in an ongoing search for suitable ones on zebrafish aging. In aging zebrafish, we detected senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity in skin and oxidized protein accumulation in muscle. On the other hand, we did not observe lipofuscin granules (aging pigments), which accumulate in postmitotic cells, in muscle of zebrafish with advancing age. Consistently, there were continuously proliferating myocytes that incorporated BrdU in muscle tissues of the aged fish. Moreover, we demonstrated that zebrafish have constitutively abundant telomerase activity in adult somatic tissues implicating unlimited replicative ability of cells throughout their lives. Although some stress-associated markers are upregulated and minor histological changes are observed during the aging process of zebrafish, our studies together with other evidence of remarkable reproductive and regenerative abilities suggest that zebrafish show very gradual senescence. By using those biological and biochemical aging markers already characterized in normal zebrafish, transgenic fish analyses and genetic mutant fish screens can be readily performed. These efforts will help to elucidate the role and molecular mechanisms of common or different pathways of aging among vertebrates from fish to humans and also will contribute to the discovery of potential drugs applicable to age-associated diseases in the future.