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Transmission of a common intestinal neoplasm in zebrafish by cohabitation.

  • Burns, A R1
  • Watral, V2
  • Sichel, S3
  • Spagnoli, S4
  • Banse, A V3
  • Mittge, E3
  • Sharpton, T J2, 5
  • Guillemin, K3, 6
  • Kent, M L2, 4
  • 1 Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.
  • 2 Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
  • 3 Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.
  • 4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
  • 5 Department of Statistics, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
  • 6 Humans and the Microbiome Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, ON, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Journal of fish diseases
Publication Date
Oct 11, 2017
DOI: 10.1111/jfd.12743
PMID: 29023774


Intestinal neoplasms are common in zebrafish (Danio rerio) research facilities. These tumours are most often seen in older fish and are classified as small cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas. Affected fish populations always contain subpopulations with preneoplastic lesions, characterized by epithelial hyperplasia or inflammation. Previous observations indicated that these tumours are unlikely caused by diet, water quality or genetic background, suggesting an infectious aetiology. We performed five transmission experiments by exposure of naïve fish to affected donor fish by cohabitation or exposure to tank effluent water. Intestinal lesions were observed in recipient fish in all exposure groups, including transmissions from previous recipient fish, and moribund fish exhibited a higher prevalence of neoplasms. We found a single 16S rRNA sequence, most similar to Mycoplasma penetrans, to be highly enriched in the donors and exposed recipients compared to unexposed control fish. We further tracked the presence of the Mycoplasma sp. using a targeted PCR test on individual dissected intestines or faeces or tank faeces. Original donor and exposed fish populations were positive for Mycoplasma, while corresponding unexposed control fish were negative. This study indicates an infectious aetiology for these transmissible tumours of zebrafish and suggests a possible candidate agent of a Mycoplasma species.

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