VIDI: project Zebrafish as model for understanding the role of environmental chemicals in obesity, 2009 - 2014

IVM’s Dr. Juliette Legler is awarded a VIDI grant for her proposal entitled “Zebrafish as a model for understanding the role of environmental chemicals in obesity.” Dr. Legler will receive 800,000 Euros for this 5-year research project, which will enable her group to examine possible long-term effects of early life exposure to environmental chemicals on obesity development, using the zebrafish as a model.

Obesity is a serious health risk that has grown to epidemic proportions globally. Historically obesity has been considered a disorder of energy imbalance imposed on a background of genetic disposition. Increasing evidence exists, however, which shows that nutritional and environmental factors during early life may influence the development of obesity in the long term. In particular, early developmental exposures to environmental chemicals may play a role in the onset of adult obesity. While the underlying mechanisms are unclear, environmental chemicals may disturb epigenetic, structural and functional pathways responsible for regulating energy metabolism and adipogenesis. This project will test the hypothesis that  early exposure to environmental chemicals leads to adult onset of obesity, which may also be passed on over generations. The zebrafish Danio rerio will be used for the first time for this purpose. The zebrafish is one of the most important models in environmental toxicology and developmental biology, and is rapidly becoming a major model for studies in human health and disease.
Zebrafish embryo
The potential to perform high throughput screens in the zebrafish embryo will allow the development of methods to rapidly test environmental chemicals for their “obesogenic” potential. C ausality and multigenerational effects of early exposure will be determined, as  well as  the molecular targets and cellular mechanisms underlying obesogenic effects of environmental chemicals. The simultaneous execution of this project together with a new EU project on obesity (OBELIX) coordinated by Dr. Legler provides an exciting opportunity to compare the established mouse model for obesity with this up-and-coming zebrafish model. Given the health implications of obesity and the related drain on health care systems worldwide, this proposed research has a high potential impact in terms of identifying chemicals with obesogenic effects and identification of risk factors involved in the development of this disorder.

Contact information: Dr. ir. Juliette Legler  

More information: NWO announcement (in Dutch), OBELIX website