Childs S, Weinstein BM, Mohideen MA, Donohue S, Bonkovsky H, Fishman MC. 2000. Zebrafish dracula encodes ferrochelatase and its mutation provides a model for erythropoietic protoporphyria. Current biology : CB. 10(16):1001-4. Pubmed: 10985389


Exposure to light precipitates the symptoms of several genetic disorders that affect both skin and internal organs. It is presumed that damage to non-cutaneous organs is initiated indirectly by light, but this is difficult to study in mammals. Zebrafish have an essentially transparent periderm for the first days of development. In a previous large-scale genetic screen we isolated a mutation, dracula (drc), which manifested as a light-dependent lysis of red blood cells [1]. We report here that protoporphyrin IX accumulates in the mutant embryos, suggesting a deficiency in the activity of ferrochelatase, the terminal enzyme in the pathway for heme biosynthesis. We find that homozygous drc(m248) mutant embryos have a G-->T transversion at a splice donor site in the ferrochelatase gene, creating a premature stop codon. The mutant phenotype, which shows light-dependent hemolysis and liver disease, is similar to that seen in humans with erythropoietic protoporphyria, a disorder of ferrochelatase.

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Photo of Mark C. Fishman

Mark C. Fishman’s group studies the heart-brain connection. They employ a range of genetic, developmental, and neurobiological tools in zebrafish to understand what the heart tells the brain, and how critical internal sensory systems adjust homeostatic and somatic behaviors, including social interactions.

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