The Growing Need for Antibodies Targeting Fish Antigens

Sharon Craggs

Sep 20, 2018

Digital M 5

While numerous antibodies have been developed against research targets of human, mouse and rat origin, significantly fewer are specific to fish antigens. Yet the importance of being able to detect fish antigens should not be under-estimated, especially with zebrafish increasingly being used as an alternative to rodents for modelling human disease, and the field of aquaculture being highly dependent on sensitive and reproducible anti-fish antibody reagents. Approaching their first anniversary as a member of the Pivotal Alliance, Vertebrate Antibodies Limited offer a range of high-quality antibodies targeting key biomolecules within organisms that include zebrafish, salmonids and trout species.

Zebrafish for modelling human disease

With approximately 70% of human genes having at least one zebrafish (Danio rerio) orthologue, these tiny organisms are ideally suited to the study of human disease, offering several major advantages over rodents as a model system. Not only do zebrafish require considerably less space and afford cheaper maintenance than rodents, but they breed more regularly, producing greater numbers of progeny to give improved statistical relevance to any downstream studies. In addition, since they develop externally, zebrafish embryos are easily manipulated, making generation of knockout or transgenic individuals a relatively straightforward process. Furthermore, unlike rodent alternatives, zebrafish embryos are transparent, facilitating visualization of fluorescently-labelled tissues within developmental studies.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is just one example of a condition which has been successfully modelled in zebrafish. Characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakening, DMD results from mutations in the dystrophin gene and is associated with impaired quality of life and decreased life expectancy. Within a 2012 publication in Disease Models and Mechanisms, the authors discuss different zebrafish models of dystrophin deficiency as tools to mimic the severity and progression of human disease. These include morpholino knockdown and the use of identified null mutations, and it is noted that different model system approaches can provide novel insights.

Aquaculture relies on high-quality anti-fish antibodies

Antibodies which target fish antigens have many important applications within the field of aquaculture. These include the study of fish immunology, and fish health monitoring to prevent the substantial financial losses associated with dissemination of disease. However, a recent publication has highlighted the need for a broader range of anti-fish antibodies to support research. Considering the economic importance of fish worldwide, antibody manufacturers may wish to consider adding anti-fish reagents to their product portfolios.

As just one example of a study designed to advance understanding of fish immunology with the aim of better controlling disease, a 2017 publication by Braden et al describes characterisation of the immune response in Atlantic salmon during infection, recovery, and re-exposure to the parasite K. thyrsites. This parasite is known to be responsible for significant economic losses to salmon aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest, yet to date little has been known about the host-parasite relationship. Using immunohistochemistry, the authors of the study demonstrated that upon K. thyrsites infection, MHII╬▓+ cells detected, infiltrated and destroyed infected myocytes within a tightly controlled anti-parasitic response. Through improved understanding of this response, it may be possible to design effective strategies to minimise infection with K. thyrsites, subsequently applying these methods to the control or eradication of other key parasitic infections.

Meeting demand for high-quality antibodies specific to fish antigens

Vertebrate Antibodies Limited (VAL) is a biotech spinout company from the University of Aberdeen with a focus on the development of antibodies to targets within a wide range of organisms for research and clinical applications. Including antibodies specific to fish antigens, designed specifically against key cellular components relevant to cancer, immunological disorders, neurobiology and disease, these products are currently available for licensing from Cancer Research Technology at their Ximbio site.