The stress response is a normal reaction to a real or perceived threat. However, stress response systems that are overwhelmed or out of balance can increase both the incidence and severity of diseases including addiction and mood and anxiety disorders. Using an animal model with both genetic diversity and large family size can help discover the specific genetic and environmental contributions to these behavioral diseases. The stress response has been studied extensively in teleosts because of their importance in food production. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a major model organism with a strong record for use in developmental biology, genetic screening, and genomic studies. More recently, the stress response of larval and adult zebrafish has been documented. High-throughput automated tracking systems make possible behavioral readouts of the stress response in zebrafish. This non-invasive measure of the stress response can be combined with mutagenesis methods to dissect the genes involved in complex stress response behaviors in vertebrates. Understanding the genetic and epigenetic basis for the stress response in vertebrates will help to develop advanced screening and therapies for stress-aggravated diseases such as addiction and mood and anxiety disorders.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York