Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism for screening nephrotoxic chemicals and related mechanisms

Soyoung Lim, Habyeong Kang, Bareum Kwon, Jung Pyo Lee, Jeonghwan Lee, Kyungho Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Because of essential role in homeostasis of the body fluid and excretion of wastes, kidney damage can lead to severe impacts on health and survival of humans. For most chemicals, nephrotoxic potentials and associated mechanisms are unclear. Hence, fast and sensitive screening measures for nephrotoxic chemicals are required. In this study, the utility of zebrafish (Danio rerio) was evaluated for the investigation of chemical-induced kidney toxicity and associated modes of toxicity, based on the literature review. Zebrafish has a well-understood biology, and many overlapping physiological characteristics with mammals. One such characteristic is its kidneys, of which histology and functions are similar to those of mammals, although unique differences of zebrafish kidneys, such as kidney marrow, should be noted. Moreover, the zebrafish kidney is simpler in structure and easy to observe. For these advantages, zebrafish has been increasingly used as an experimental model for screening nephrotoxicity of chemicals and for understanding related mechanisms. Multiple endpoints of zebrafish model, from functional level, i.e., glomerular filtration, to transcriptional changes of key genes, have been assessed to identify chemical-induced kidney toxicities, and to elucidate underlying mechanisms. The most frequently studied mechanisms of chemical-induced nephrotoxicity in zebrafish include oxidative stress, inflammation, DNA damage, apoptosis, fibrosis, and cell death. To date, several pharmaceuticals, oxidizing agents, natural products, biocides, alcohols, and consumer chemicals have been demonstrated to exert different types of kidney toxicities in zebrafish. The present review shows that zebrafish model can be efficiently employed for quick and reliable assessment of kidney damage potentials of chemicals, and related toxic mechanisms. The toxicological information obtained from this model can be utilized for identification of nephrotoxic chemicals and hence for protection of public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113842
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022


  • Chemical safety
  • High-throughput
  • Kidney toxicity
  • Screening
  • Zebrafish


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