The acoustic startle response is an evolutionarily conserved avoidance behavior. Disruptions in startle behavior, particularly startle magnitude, are a hallmark of several human neurological disorders. While the neural circuitry underlying startle behavior has been studied extensively, the repertoire of genes and genetic pathways that regulate this locomotor behavior has not been explored using an unbiased genetic approach. To identify such genes, we took advantage of the stereotypic startle behavior in zebrafish larvae and performed a forward genetic screen coupled with whole genome analysis. We uncovered mutations in eight genes critical for startle behavior, including two genes encoding proteins associated with human neurological disorders, Dolichol kinase (Dolk), a broadly expressed regulator of the glycoprotein biosynthesis pathway, and the potassium Shaker-like channel subunit Kv1.1. We demonstrate that Kv1.1 and Dolk play critical roles in the spinal cord to regulate movement magnitude during the startle response and spontaneous swim movements. Moreover, we show that Kv1.1 protein is mislocalized in dolk mutants, suggesting they act in a common genetic pathway. Combined, our results identify a diverse set of eight genes, all associated with human disorders, that regulate zebrafish startle behavior and reveal a previously unappreciated role for Dolk and Kv1.1 in regulating movement magnitude via a common genetic pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research