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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gene expression changes in aging Zebrafish (Danio rerio) brains are sexually dimorphic

Ayca Arslan-Ergul12 and Michelle M Adams13*

Author Affiliations

1 BilGen Genetics and Biotechnology Center, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

2 Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

3 Department of Psychology, Bilkent University 06800 Bilkent Ankara, Turkey

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-29

Published: 18 February 2014



Brain aging is a multi-factorial process due to both genetic and environmental factors. The zebrafish has recently become a popular model organism for examining aging and age-related diseases because as in humans they age gradually and exhibit cognitive decline. Few studies have examined the biological changes in the aging brain that may contribute to these declines and none have examined them within individuals with respect to gender. Our aim was to identify the main genetic pathways associated with zebrafish brain aging across gender. We chose males and females from specific age groups (young, 7.5-8.5 months and old, 31-36 months) based on the progression of cognitive decline in zebrafish. RNA was isolated from individual brains and subjected to microarray and qPCR analysis. Statistical analyses were performed using a two-way ANOVA and the relevant post-hoc tests.


Our results demonstrated that in the brains of young and old male and female zebrafish there were over 500 differentially expressed genes associated with multiple pathways but most notably were those related to neurogenesis and cell differentiation, as well as brain and nervous system development.


The gene expression of multiple pathways is altered with age and differentially expressed in males and females. Future studies will be aimed at determining the causal relationships of age-related changes in gene expression in individual male and female brains, as well as possible interventions that counteract these alterations.

Aging; Microarray; Brain; Gender; Synapse; Neurogenesis