Trans-NIH Mouse Initiative
Reports and Publications


Zebrafish Research: Activities at the NIH
Published in The Zebrafish Science Monitor, Vol. 5 (June 15, 1998)

Over the past few years, it has become apparent that the zebrafish as a model of vertebrate development and disease has received increased attention by the scientific community, primarily because of its value in both experimental and genetic analyses. While small groups of researchers have been working with Danio rerio for many years, the increase in the number of investigators using this model in recent years prompted the NIH to become more involved in assisting its development Early in 1997, a workshop, sponsored by several NIH Institutes was held by members of the zebrafish community in order to assess the state of the science relating to the zebrafish as a model genome system. This group presented a report to the Director of the NIH, in spring, 1997, with the recommendation to develop the zebrafish system for genetic studies of vertebrate embryogenesis and disease. In response to these recommendations, the Director of the NIH formed the Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee which first met in the fall of 1997. This working group is composed of representatives from most of NIH's Institutes and Centers having an interest in promoting zebrafish as a research model. The Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Josephine Briggs of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Dr. Tyl Hewitt of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Activities by this group have been substantial. The initial effort of this group resulted in a Request for Applications (RFA) as part of an effort to create resources that will facilitate the mapping and positional cloning of genes in the zebrafish. The RFA (DK-98-006) was published in December 1997, and applications will be reviewed in July 1998. Successful applications will be funded by fall, 1998. This effort is being co-sponsored by 12 Institutes and Centers.

Most recently, the Coordinating Committee published a Program Announcement (PA), soliciting investigator-initiated applications using the zebrafish as a model for development and disease research. The objectives of this PA are to encourage and promote new and innovative research and approaches to identify the genes and elucidate the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for normal and defective development using the zebrafish as the animal model. This PA (HD-98-074) was published in the May 21, 1998 issue of the NIH Guide. A total of 18 Institutes and Centers are participating in this endeavor. Each of the participating Institutes and Centers has interests in using the zebrafish as a model system to better understand particular processes, organs, or diseases. In addition, some may be interested in supporting development of methods, either general techniques or techniques that may particularly apply to their areas of interest. Please contact the appropriate program official listed on the PA with questions. The receipt dates for this PA are the same as for any R01 application. The URL of this PA is

In addition, Institutes participating in the Coordinating Committee are assisting in the support of a Zebrafish Resource Center, overseen by National Center for Research Resources, that will act as a stock center for the maintenance and distribution of zebrafish mutants to the scientific community as well as to provide state-of-the-art informational resources via the world wide web.

These initiatives represent one of the most coordinated and unified efforts on the part of the NIH to support research using a single animal model. This indicates an appreciation of the importance of zebrafish as a model for development by the funding components of the NIH. It is important to understand, however, that the peer review system is another important link in the funding process. As the number of applications using zebrafish increases, it is important that members of the zebrafish scientific community understand the need for them to participate as reviewers in this system. Active participation in the review process not only will enlighten their colleagues using other model systems, but also will ensure that the expertise is available on study sections for the fair and appropriate review of zebrafish research grant applications.

The Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee will continue to meet on a regular basis. We welcome your suggestions, comments and concerns. Please contact us and let us know how the NIH can be of help in the future.

Deborah B. Henken (
for the Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee