The Zebrafish Heart as a Model of Mammalian Cardiac Function

  • Christine E. Genge
  • Eric Lin
  • Ling Lee
  • XiaoYe Sheng
  • Kaveh Rayani
  • Marvin Gunawan
  • Charles M. Stevens
  • Alison Yueh Li
  • Sanam Shafaat Talab
  • Thomas W. Claydon
  • Leif Hove-Madsen
  • Glen F. TibbitsEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology book series (REVIEWS, volume 171)


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are widely used as vertebrate model in developmental genetics and functional genomics as well as in cardiac structure-function studies. The zebrafish heart has been increasingly used as a model of human cardiac function, in part, due to the similarities in heart rate and action potential duration and morphology with respect to humans. The teleostian zebrafish is in many ways a compelling model of human cardiac function due to the clarity afforded by its ease of genetic manipulation, the wealth of developmental biological information, and inherent suitability to a variety of experimental techniques. However, in addition to the numerous advantages of the zebrafish system are also caveats related to gene duplication (resulting in paralogs not present in human or other mammals) and fundamental differences in how zebrafish hearts function. In this review, we discuss the use of zebrafish as a cardiac function model through the use of techniques such as echocardiography, optical mapping, electrocardiography, molecular investigations of excitation-contraction coupling, and their physiological implications relative to that of the human heart. While some of these techniques (e.g., echocardiography) are particularly challenging in the zebrafish because of diminutive size of the heart (~1.5 mm in diameter) critical information can be derived from these approaches and are discussed in detail in this article.


Cardiac electrophysiology Echocardiography Electrophysiology Excitation-contraction coupling Optical mapping Phylogeny 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine E. Genge
    • 1
  • Eric Lin
    • 1
  • Ling Lee
    • 2
  • XiaoYe Sheng
    • 2
  • Kaveh Rayani
    • 1
  • Marvin Gunawan
    • 1
  • Charles M. Stevens
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alison Yueh Li
    • 1
  • Sanam Shafaat Talab
    • 1
  • Thomas W. Claydon
    • 1
  • Leif Hove-Madsen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Glen F. Tibbits
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Molecular Cardiac Physiology Group, Biomedical Physiology and KinesiologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.BC Children’s Hospital Research InstituteVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Cardiovascular Research Centre CSIC-ICCCHospital de Sant PauBarcelonaSpain

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