Functional analysis of zebrafish innate immune responses to inflammatory signals
Taylor, Harriet Beverly
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Injury, infection and tissue malfunction are triggers of inflammation which if not regulated may acquire new characteristics that result in pathological outcomes. Since innate immunity plays a key role in the resolution of acute inflammation knowledge of the regulation of this component of the host response is relevant to understanding processes in disease progression and therefore has potential clinical benefits. In this thesis I have applied zebrafish as a model organism to investigate the response of innate immune cells to qualitatively distinct inflammatory signals in the absence of adaptive immunity. Using a zebrafish embryo wound injury model I have investigated leukocyte migration profiles by in vivo imaging. In response to wound alone leukocytes migrated to the site of injury with predominantly random walk behaviour. However, the addition of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) enhanced recruitment and influenced the directionality of leukocyte migration to the wound. I demonstrate that leukocyte dynamic behaviour is also dependent on the location of the cells. The LPS enhanced directionality and reduced the random walk behaviour of the leukocytes, and these effects were ablated in the presence of the p38 mitogenactivated protein kinase (MAPK) specific inhibitor SB203580. Cytokine gene profiling in adult zebrafish leukocytes reveals that LPS can stimulate a pro-inflammatory response via the activation of p38 MAPK characteristic of mammalian innate immune responses. It is documented in mammalian innate immune cells that LPS can modulate Notch mediated signalling and thereby cell function. Using zebrafish with null mutations in Notch, which provide an unbiased in vivo model, I have investigated the influence of Notch signalling on leukocyte recruitment and demonstrate that migration to a wound injury is reduced. However, this effect is due to decreased cell numbers and not altered function as the Notch signalling inhibitor DAPT had no effect of recruitment to wound injury. The defect in myelomonocyte numbers was also present in adult zebrafish and this was partially compensated for by an increase in lymphocytes. The experimental results that I report here highlight zebrafish as a model 2 organism for studying the function and regulation of innate immunity. The unique optical translucency, which permits in vivo imaging of host responses in real-time, facilitates the analysis of the innate immune response to different inflammatory signals and immune modulators.