Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Bold zebrafish (Danio rerio) express higher levels of delta opioid and dopamine D2 receptors in the brain compared to shy fish

Thornqvist, Per-Ove; McCarrick, Sarah; Ericsson, Maja; Roman, Erika; Winberg, Svante


Individual variation in coping with environmental challenges is a well-known phenomenon across vertebrates, including teleost fish. Dopamine is the major transmitter in the brain reward networks, and important for motivational processes and stress coping. Functions of the endogenous opioid system are not well studied in teleosts. However, in mammals the activity in the brain reward networks is regulated by the endogenous opioid system. This study aimed at investigating if there was a correlation between risk-taking behavior and the expression of dopamine and opioid receptors in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain. Risk-taking behavior was assessed in a novel tank diving test, and the most extreme high risk taking, i.e. bold, and low risk taking, i.e. shy, fish were sampled for qPCR analysis of whole brain gene expression. The expression analysis showed a significantly higher expression of the dopamine D2 receptors (drd2a and drd2b) and the delta opioid receptor (DOR; oprd1b) in bold compared to shy fish. Besides reward and reinforcing properties, DORs are also involved in emotional responses. Dopamine D2 receptors are believed to be important for active stress coping in rodents, and taken together the results of the current study suggest similar functions in zebrafish. However, additional experiments are required to clarify how dopamine and opioid receptor activation affect behavior and stress coping in this species.


Animal personality; Behavior; Boldness; Dopamine receptor; Opioid receptor; Risk taking; Shyness

Published in

Behavioural Brain Research
2019, Volume: 359, pages: 927-934 Publisher: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV

      UKÄ Subject classification


      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)