Thymus development in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) from an ecoimmunology perspective.

Kernen, Larissa; Rieder, Jessica; Duus, Annette; Holbech, Henrik; Segner, Helmut; Bailey, Christyn (2020). Thymus development in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) from an ecoimmunology perspective. Journal of experimental zoology. Part A, Ecological and integrative physiology, 333(10), pp. 805-819. Wiley 10.1002/jez.2435

[img] Text
b151411.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (2MB) | Request a copy

The thymus is present in all gnathostome vertebrates and is an essential organ for the adaptive immune system via the generation of functional mature T-cells. Over the life span of mammals, the thymus undergoes morphological and functional alterations, including an age-related involution, which in humans starts in early life. Life history tradeoffs have been suggested as possible reasons for thymus involution. While in teleost fish, only a few studies have investigated alterations of thymus structure and function over different life stages, resulting in a fragmented database. Here, we investigated the thymus growth of zebrafish (Danio rerio) from early life, throughout puberty and reproductive stage, up to 1-year-old. We assessed thymus growth by histological and morphometric analyses and thymocyte numbers. Thymus function was assessed by measuring the transcripts of the thymocyte marker genes, ikaros, tcrα, and tcrδ. Additionally, we analyzed gonad maturity and tail homogenate vitellogenin concentrations to align thymus status with the status of the reproductive system. Our results showed that the zebrafish thymus, in contrast to the human thymus, grew strongly during early life and puberty but started to undergo involution when the fish reached the reproductive age. The involution was characterized by reduced thymus area and thymocyte number, altered histoarchitecture, and decreasing thymocyte marker gene transcript levels. Our findings suggest that age-related changes of the zebrafish thymus do exist and could be partly explained in terms of resource tradeoffs, but also in terms of the ontogenetically late development of a functional adaptive immune system in teleosts.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Center for Fish and Wildlife Health (FIWI)

UniBE Contributor:

Kernen, Larissa; Rieder, Jessica Marie; Segner, Helmut and Bailey, Christyn John


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)








Pamela Schumacher

Date Deposited:

11 Feb 2021 08:39

Last Modified:

28 Jul 2022 09:44

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

ecoimmunology involution life history thymus tradeoffs zebrafish




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback