Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 125–133 | Cite as

Zebrafish as a Model for Toxicological Perturbation of Yolk and Nutrition in the Early Embryo

  • Karilyn E. Sant
  • Alicia R. Timme-LaragyEmail author
Mechanisms of Toxicity (CJ Mattingly and A Planchart, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Mechanisms of Toxicity


Purpose of Review

Developmental toxicity assessments often focus on structural outcomes and overlook subtle metabolic differences which occur during the early embryonic period. Deviant embryonic nutrition can result in later-life disease, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Prior to placenta-mediated nutrient exchange, the human embryo requires maternally supplied nutritional substrates for growth, called yolk. Here, we compare the biology of the human and zebrafish yolk and review examples of toxicant-mediated perturbation of yolk defects, composition, and utilization.

Recent Findings

Zebrafish embryos, like human embryos, have a protruding yolk sac that serves as a nutritional cache. Aberrant yolk morphology is a common qualitative finding in fish embryotoxicity studies, but quantitative assessment and characterization provides an opportunity to uncover mechanistic targets of toxicant effects on embryonic nutrition.


The zebrafish and the study of its yolk sac is an excellent model for uncovering toxicant disruptions to early embryonic nutrition and has potential to discover mechanistic insights into the developmental origins of health and disease.


Yolk Yolk sac Embryonic nutrition Developmental toxicology Malabsorption 


Funding Information

Funding for this work was provided by the National Institutes of Health (R01ES025748 and R01ES028201 to AT-L, and F32ES028085 to KES).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All reported studies with animal subjects performed by the authors have complied with all applicable ethical standards. All procedures were approved by the University of Massachusetts Amherst IACUC committee (Animal Welfare Assurance Number A3551-01).


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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