We studied the efficiency with which two chemical mutagens, ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) and N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) can induce mutations at different stages of spermatogenesis in zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio). Both EMS and ENU induced mutations at high rates in post-meiotic germ cells, as indicated by the incidence of F1 progeny mosaic for the albino mutation. For pre-meiotic germ cells, however, only ENU was found to be an effective mutagen, as indicated by the frequencies of non-mosaic mutant progeny at four different pigmentation loci. Several mutagenic regimens that varied in either the number of treatments or the concentration of ENU were studied to achieve an optimal ratio between the mutagenicity and toxicity. For the two most mutagenic regimens; 4 x 1 hr in 3 mM ENU and 6 x 1 hr in 3 mM ENU, the minimum estimate of frequencies of independent mutations per locus per gamete was 0.9-1.3 x 10-3. We demonstrate that embryonic lethal mutations induced with ENU were transmitted to offspring and that they could be recovered in an F2 screen. An average frequency of specific-locus mutations of 1.1 x 10-3 corresponded to approximately 1.7 embryonic lethal mutations per single mutagenized genome. The high rates of mutations achievable with ENU allow for rapid identification of large numbers of genes involved in a variety of aspects of zebrafish development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1401-1420
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1994


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