The use of microangiography in detecting aberrant vasculature in zebrafish embryos exposed to cadmium

Shuk Han CHENG, Po Kwok CHAN, Shiu Sun Rudolf WU

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Embryonic vascular patterns in zebrafish (Danio rerio) could be visualised by confocal microscopy coupled with microinjected fluorescent microbeads. This microangiographic technique was adopted here, for the first time, to study the effects of cadmium on cardiovascular development in zebrafish embryos. Zebrafish embryos were incubated in culture medium containing 100 μM cadmium from 5 h post fertilisation (hpf) to 48 hpf. At 48 hpf, embryos were examined for viability and occurrence of malformations. The 100 μM cadmium caused 32.21±3.65% mortality and 20.33±4.04% visible malformations in surviving embryos. In the remaining embryos with no visible signs of malformations, further assessments for less obvious abnormalities were performed. Assessments on craniofacial development were made by digital measurements on areas of brains and eyes. Cardiac development was assessed by immunostaining the heart with the antibody MF20 specific for myosin heavy chain. Body lengths of the embryos were also measured. Embryonic development of brains, eyes, hearts and body lengths of visibly healthy embryos in the cadmium treatment group showed no significant difference from the controls. Embryonic vasculature of these visibly healthy embryos was then studied by microinjecting fluorescent microbeads of diameter 0.02 μm into the circulation. All the cadmium treated embryos showed localised vascular defects in the dorsal aortae, segmental and cranial vessels while none of the control embryos showed any aberrant patterns in the networking of the vasculature. Improved image analyses on the anterior regions revealed that cadmium treated embryos had markedly less complex networks of cranial vessels with fewer vessels perfusing the craniofacial regions. The number of branch points in the vascular network was counted. In untreated embryos, there were 135.6±51 branches in the vasculature in entire body. In the cadmium treated embryos, there were 64.5±31 branches. The difference was significant when assessed with Student's t-test. It appeared that although cadmium did not cause any signs of external malformations in these visibly healthy embryos, nonetheless induced impaired branching and anastomsis of the cranial vessels. This study revealed, for the first time, that vital vascular structures in fish embryos could be affected by exposure to cadmium. This technique allowed visualisation of vascular anomalies in embryos showing no external signs of malformations. The impairment of anatomical features during embryonic development might serve as meaningful health endpoints in ecotoxicological studies and in risk assessment. Copyright © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-71
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001


Cheng, S. H., Chan, P. K., & Wu, R. S. S. (2001). The use of microangiography in detecting aberrant vasculature in zebrafish embryos exposed to cadmium. Aquatic Toxicology, 52(1), 61-71. doi: 10.1016/S0166-445X(00)00130-2


  • Microangiography
  • Zebrafish embryos
  • Vasculature patterning
  • Health endpoint
  • Cadmium


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