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Zebrafish regrow fins using multiple cell types, not identical stem cells

Zebrafish are a type of minnow widely used in scientific research. Small, semi-transparent freshwater fish, they reproduce rapidly and their transparent embryos develop outside the body. Such traits are helpful for viewing biological processes within the embryo or adult tissues.


What does it take to regenerate a limb? When a zebrafish loses its fin, a special group of cells forms on the remaining stump. These cells, which appear identical to one another, regrow the entire limb, complete with all cell types required for a complex organ. This has suggested that these cells may be “pluripotent” stem cells, capable of forming almost every tissue in the body.


To determine if this was indeed the case, Johnson and postdoctoral research associate Shu Tu, PhD, who did this work for her doctoral thesis, used genetic techniques to label individual cells in the stump with a fragment of DNA that makes the cells glow green. When a cell divides, it copies its DNA so that each daughter cell has a complete set of genetic material. Since Johnson and Tu’s label is inserted into the cell’s DNA, the cells also duplicate the label and pass it on to each daughter cell. By simply observing which cells glow green, Johnson and Tu could track the subsequent daughter cells and determine what cell types they become.


For example, they saw that when they had glowing skin cells in the stump, only skin cells glowed in the regenerated limb. Likewise, when a nerve cell glowed in the stump, only nerve cells glowed in the regenerated limb. In other words, they saw no evidence that a skin cell glowing in the stump could give rise to a nerve cell glowing later in the fin’s development or regeneration.


Using this technique, Johnson and Tu identified nine separate cell lineages present at the end of the stump that contribute to forming the fin’s skin, nerves, pigment, blood vessels, bone and immune cells.
The study appears online May 16 in Developmental Cell.

Tu, S. and Johnson, S.L. Developmental Cell  (2011) 20; 725-732.
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Selected antibodies that recognize Zebrafish specific proteins

Catalog #

Product Name

0014-07G 14-3-3, gamma
A0906-51 Adrenergic Receptor, Alpha 1 (A1AR)
A1124-02P Akt, phosphorylated (Ser473) (Rac PKa, PKBa)
A1124-02Q Akt, phosphorylated (Ser473) (PE)
C0035-05D c-myc
C1035-25B2 Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II, alpha (CAMKII)
C2069-47J Catenin, beta, phosphorylated (Ser675)
C7915-80 CREB Regulated Transcription Coactivator 1
C7949-21L Cullin 4B
C7949-21L1 Cullin 4B
D3931-63C DNA Methyltransferase 1
F0019-63M1 Fas (CD95, APO-1) (Biotin)
F0023-95 FBXO9
F4150-34A FK506 Binding Protein 12-Rapamycin Associated Protein 1 (FRAP1, FLJ44809, RAFT1, RAPT1)
H5110-12M5 Histone H3
L9058-02C Lysine, Acetylated (Acetyl-Lysine)
M2352-05H MAP Kinase, p38, phosphorylated (Thr180/Tyr182)
M2352-20C MAP Kinase p44/42, phosphorylated (Thr202/Tyr204)
M2352-20D MAP Kinase p44/42, phosphorylated (Erk1/2) (Thr202/Tyr204)
M2352-20E MAP Kinase p44/42, phosphorylated (Erk1/2) (Thr202/Tyr204)
M2352-20N MAP Kinase p44/42, phosphorylated (Thr202/Tyr204) (PE)
M2355-01A MAPKAP Kinase 2
N2150-12 Neurofibromin 2 (Zebrafish)
P3105-77D PAR4 (Proteinase Activated Receptor 4)
P3110-91 PARK2 Co-regulated
P4480-48 Polyubiquitin, Lysine 48-Linkage Specific
R1426-11A RelB, phosphorylated (Ser552)
S1014-53H1 Smad3 (Small Mothers Against Decapentaplegic Deleted in Pancreatic Carcinoma)
S6500-06E Src, phosphorylated (Tyr416) (pp60Src, pp60c-Src)
T2550-23 Tenascin
T5348-98Y Thyroid Hormone Receptor, alpha (THRa)
T9154-01C Tubulin, alpha, acetyl (Lys40)
T9155-04C Tubulin, beta (HRP
U1000-07D Ubiquitin
U4100-02 USP7