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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Transcriptional study reveals a potential leptin-dependent gene regulatory network in zebrafish brain

Ahi, Ehsan Pashay; Tsakoumis, Emmanouil; Brunel, Mathilde; Schmitz, Monika


The signal mediated by leptin hormone and its receptor is a major regulator of body weight, food intake and metabolism. In mammals and many teleost fish species, leptin has an anorexigenic role and inhibits food intake by influencing the appetite centres in the hypothalamus. However, the regulatory connections between leptin and downstream genes mediating its appetite-regulating effects are still not fully explored in teleost fish. In this study, we used a loss of function leptin receptor zebrafish mutant and real-time quantitative PCR to assess brain expression patterns of several previously identified anorexigenic genes downstream of leptin signal under different feeding conditions (normal feeding, 7-day fasting, 2 and 6-h refeeding). These downstream factors include members of cart genes, crhb and gnrh2, as well as selected genes co-expressed with them based on a zebrafish co-expression database. Here, we found a potential gene expression network (GRN) comprising the abovementioned genes by a stepwise approach of identifying co-expression modules and predicting their upstream regulators. Among the transcription factors (TFs) predicted as potential upstream regulators of this GRN, we found expression pattern of sp3a to be correlated with transcriptional changes of the downstream gene network. Interestingly, the expression and transcriptional activity of Sp3 orthologous gene in mammals have already been implicated to be under the influence of leptin signal. These findings suggest a potentially conserved regulatory connection between leptin and sp3a, which is predicted to act as a transcriptional driver of a downstream gene network in the zebrafish brain.


Leptin receptor; Zebrafish; Gene expression; Gene regulatory network; Feeding; Brain

Published in

Fish Physiology and Biochemistry
2021, volume: 47, number: 4, pages: 1283-1298
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Ahi, Ehsan Pashay
University of Helsinki
Tsakoumis, Emmanouil
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences
Schmitz, Monika
Uppsala University

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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