Cryopreservation of zebrafish embryos is still an unsolved problem despite market demand and massive efforts to preserve genetic variation among numerous existing lines. Chilled storage of embryos might be a step towards developing successful cryopreservation, but no methods to date have worked.
In the present study, we applied a novel strategy to improve the chilling tolerance of zebrafish embryos by introducing a preconditioning hydrostatic pressure treatment to the embryos. In our experiments, 26-somites and Prim-5 stage zebrafish embryos were chilled at 0°C for 24 hours after preconditioning. Embryo survival rate, ability to reach maturation and fertilizing capacity were tested.
Our results indicate that applied preconditioning technology made it possible for the chilled embryos to develop normally until maturity, and to produce healthy offspring as normal, thus passing on their genetic material successfully. Treated embryos had a significantly higher survival and better developmental rate, moreover the treated group had a higher ratio of normal morphology during continued development. While all controls from chilled embryos died by 30 day-post-fertilization, the treated group reached maturity (~90–120 days) and were able to reproduce, resulting in offspring in expected quantity and quality.
Based on our results, we conclude that the preconditioning technology represents a significant improvement in zebrafish embryo chilling tolerance, thus enabling a long-time survival. Furthermore, as embryonic development is arrested during chilled storage this technology also provides a solution to synchronize or delay the development.