Publications in 1998

Chandrasekhar, A., Warren, J. T., Takahashi, K., Schauerte, H. E., van Eeden, F. J. M., Haffter, P. and Kuwada, J. Y. (1998). Role of sonic hegdehog in branchiomotor neuron induction in zebrafish. Mech Dev 76, 101-15.

The role of zebrafish hedgehog genes in branchiomotor neuron development was analyzed by examining mutations that affect the expression of the hedgehog genes and by overexpressing these genes in embryos. In cyclops mutants, reduction in sonic hedgehog (shh) expression, and elimination of tiggy-winkle hedgehog (twhh) expression, correlated with reductions in branchiomotor neuron populations. Furthermore, branchiomotor neurons were restored in cyclops mutants when shh or twhh was overexpressed. These results suggest that Shh and/or Twhh play an important role in the induction of branchiomotor neurons in vivo. In sonic-you (syu) mutants, where Shh activity was reduced or eliminated due to mutations in shh, branchiomotor neurons were reduced in number in a rhombomere-specific fashion, but never eliminated. Similarly, spinal motor neurons were reduced, but not eliminated, in syu mutants. These results demonstrate that Shh is not solely responsible for inducing branchiomotor and spinal motor neurons, and suggest that Shh and Twhh may function as partially redundant signals for motor neuron induction in zebrafish.

van Eeden, F. J. M., Holley, S. A., Haffter, P. and Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (1998). Zebrafish segmentation and pair-rule patterning. Dev Genet 23, 65-76.

Segmentation in the vertebrate embryo is evident within the paraxial mesoderm in the form of somites, which are repeated structures that give rise to the vertebrae and muscle of the trunk and tail. In the zebrafish, our genetic screen identified two groups of mutants that affect somite formation and pattern. Mutations of one class, the fss-type mutants, disrupt the formation of the anterior-posterior somite boundaries during somitogenesis. However, segmentation within the paraxial mesoderm is not completely eliminated in these mutants. Irregular somite boundaries form later during embryogenesis and, strikingly, the vertebrae are not fused. Here, we show that formation of the irregular somite boundaries in these mutants is dependent upon the activity of a second group of genes, the you-type genes, which include sonic you, the zebrafish homologue of the Drosophila segment polarity gene, sonic hedgehog. Further to characterize the defects caused by the fss-type mutations, we examined their effects on the expression of her1, a zebrafish homologue of the Drosophila pair-rule gene hairy. In wild-type embryos, her1 is expressed in a dynamic, repeating pattern, remarkably similar to that of its Drosophila and Tribolium counterparts, suggesting that a pair-rule mechanism also functions in the segmentation of the vertebrate paraxial mesoderm. We have found that the fss-type mutants have abnormal pair-rule patterning. Although a her1 mutant could not be identified, analysis of a double mutant that abolishes most her1 expression suggests that a her1 mutant may not display a pair-rule phenotype analogous to the hairy phenotype observed in Drosophila. Cumulatively, our data indicate that zebrafish homologues of both the Drosophila segment polarity genes and pair-rule genes are involved in segmenting the paraxial mesoderm. However, both the relationship between these two groups of genes with in the genetic heirarchy governing segmentation and the precise roles that they play during segmentation likely differ significantly between the two organisms.

Grandel, H., and Schulte-Merker, S. (1998). The development of the paired fins in the zebrafish (Danio rerio). Mech Dev 79, 99-120.

In the present study, we describe the structure and normal development of the zebrafish (Danio rerio) paired fins. Particularly, we focus on the structure of the apical epidermis and on endoskeletal morphogenesis. Endoskeletal development proceeds differently in the pectoral and pelvic fins. Whereas in both fins major parts of the endoskeletal girdle develop within the fin bud mesenchyme, the pattern of chondrogenic condensations observed in the pelvic fins directly reflects the adult endoskeletal pattern. In the pectoral fin, a morphogenetic detour is taken via a functional larval endoskeleton, the endoskeletal disc. It arises in the fin bud mesenchyme from a chondrogenic anlage common with the girdle. The disc chondrifies and represents the functional endoskeleton of the larval pectoral fin. The pectoral fin endoskeleton is expanded as well as restructured during larval stages in a process which involves decomposition of cartilage matrix in the endoskeletal disc. Our comparisons of apical fold morphology with reports on other teleosts and tetrapod apical ridges show them to be homologous on the structural level. Comparisons of endoskeletal development of the zebrafish with reports on teleosts, actinopterygians and chondrichthyans show that endoskeletal morphogenesis in the zebrafish pectoral fin follows a morphogenetic process which is wide-spread among actinopterygians.

Kehle, J., Beuchle, D., Treuheit, S., Christen, B., Kennison, J. A., Bienz, M. and Müller, J. (1998). dMi-2, a hunchback-interacting protein that functions in polycomb repression. Science 282, 1897-900.

Early in Drosophila embryogenesis, gap gene products directly repress transcription of homeotic (HOX) genes and thereby delimit HOX expression domains. Subsequently, Polycomb-group proteins maintain this repression. Currently, there is no known molecular link between gap and Polycomb-group proteins. Here, dMi-2 is identified as a protein that binds to a domain in the gap protein Hunchback that is specifically required for the repression of HOX genes. Genetic analyses show that dMi-2 participates in both Hunchback and Polycomb repression in vivo. Hence, recruitment of dMi-2 may serve as a link between repression of HOX genes by Hunchback and Polycomb proteins.

Lauderdale, J. D., Pasquali, S. K., Fazel, R., van Eeden, F. J. M., Schauerte, H. E., Haffter, P. and Kuwada, J. Y. (1998). Regulation of netrin-1a expression by hedgehog proteins. Mol Cell Neurosci 11, 194-205.

Netrins, a family of growth cone guidance molecules, are expressed both in the ventral neural tube and in subsets of mesodermal cells. In an effort to better understand the regulation of netrins, we examined the expression of netrin-1a in mutant cyclops, no tail, and floating head zebrafish embryos, in which axial midline structures are perturbed. Netrin-1a expression requires signals present in notochord and floor plate cells. In the myotome, but not the neural tube, netrin-1a expression requires sonic hedgehog. In embryos lacking sonic hedgehog, the sonic-you locus, netrin-1a expression is reduced or absent in the myotomes but present in the neural tube. Embryos lacking sonic hedgehog express tiggy-winkle hedgehog in the floor plate, suggesting that, in the neural tube, tiggy-winkle hedgehog can compensate for the lack of sonic hedgehog in inducing netrin-1a expression. Ectopic expression of sonic hedgehog, tiggy-winkle hedgehog, or echidna hedgehog induces ectopic netrin-1a expression in the neural tube, and ectopic expression of sonic hedgehog or tiggy-winkle hedgehog, but not echidna hedgehog, induces ectopic netrin-1a expression in somites. These data demonstrate that in vertebrates netrin-1a expression is regulated by Hedgehog signaling.

Lee, K.H., Marden, J.J., Thompson, M.S., MacLennan, H., Kishimoto, Y., Pratt, S.J., Schulte-Merker, S., Hammerschmidt, M., Johnson, S.L., Postlethwait, J.H., Beier, D.C., and Zon, L.I. (1998). Cloning and genetic mapping of zebrafish BMP-2. Dev Genet 23, 97-103.

The BMP family of polypeptide growth factors has been shown to play diverse roles in establishing embryonic patterning and tissue fates. We report the cloning of the zebrafish homologue of BMP-2, examine its expression during embryogenesis, and find that it is localized to the distal end of the long arm of zebrafish chromosome 20. A missense mutation of the bmp2 gene has recently been shown to be responsible for the early dorsalized phenotype of the zebrafish swirl mutant [Kishimoto et al., 1997]. Given the dynamic expression of bmp2 in the developing embryo and the complex interactions of BMP signaling response in vertebrates, it is possible that other mutant phenotypes, due to altered bmp2 gene expression, will eventually map to or interact with this genetic locus.

Nicolson, T., Rüsch, A., Friedrich, R. W., Granato, M., Ruppersberg, J. P. and Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (1998). Genetic analysis of vertebrate sensory hair cell mechanosensation - the zebrafish circler mutants. Neuron 20, 271-83.

The molecular basis of sensory hair cell mechanotransduction is largely unknown. In order to identify genes that are essential for mechanosensory hair cell function, we characterized a group of recently isolated zebrafish motility mutants. These mutants are defective in balance and swim in circles but have no obvious morphological defects. We examined the mutants using calcium imaging of acoustic-vibrational and tactile escape responses, high resolution microscopy of sensory neuroepithelia in live larvae, and recordings of extracellular hair cell potentials (microphonics). Based on the analyses, we have identified several classes of genes. Mutations in sputnik and mariner affect hair bundle integrity. Mutant astronaut and cosmonaut hair cells have relatively normal microphonics and thus appear to affect events downstream of mechanotransduction. Mutant orbiter, mercury, and gemini larvae have normal hair cell morphology and yet do not respond to acoustic-vibrational stimuli. The microphonics of lateral line hair cells of orbiter, mercury, and gemini larvae are absent or strongly reduced. Therefore, these genes may encode components of the transduction apparatus.

Odenthal, J. and Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (1998). Fork head domain genes in zebrafish. Dev Genes Evol 208, 245-58.

Nine members of the fork head domain gene family (fkd1-fkd9) were isolated from early cDNA libraries in the zebrafish. They show unique expression patterns in whole-mount RNA in situ hybridization during the first 24 h of embryonic development. These fkd genes fall into three of ten classes, based on sequence similarities within the DNA-binding domain, whereas members for the other seven classes described in other vertebrates were not found. In addition to conserved residues at certain positions in the fork head domain, characteristic transcription activation domains as well as similarities in expression patterns were found for members of the different classes. Members of class I (fkd1/axial, fkd2/Zffkh1, fkd4 and fkd7) are differentially transcribed in unsegmented dorsal axial structures such as the floor plate, the notochord, the hypochord and, in addition, the endoderm. Transcripts of fkd3 and fkd5 (class II) are mainly detected in the cells of the ectoderm which form neural tissues, as is the case for genes of this class in other species. RNAs of the three members of class V (fkd6, fkd8 and fkd9) are expressed in the paraxial mesoderm and transiently in the neuroectoderm. fkd6 is strongly expressed in neural crest cells from early stages on, whereas fkd2 and fkd7 are transcribed in individual neural crest cells in the pharyngula period.

Rebagliati, M. R., Toyama, R., Fricke, C., Haffter, P. and Dawid, I. B. (1998). Zebrafish nodal-related genes are implicated in axial patterning and establishing left-right asymmetry. Dev Biol 199, 261-72.

Nodal-related 1 (ndr1) and nodal-related 2 (ndr2) genes in zebrafish encode members of the nodal subgroup of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily. We report the expression patterns and functional characteristics of these factors, implicating them in the establishment of dorsal-ventral polarity and left-right asymmetry. Ndr1 is expressed maternally, and ndr2 and ndr2 are expressed during blastula stage in the blastoderm margin. During gastrulation, ndr expression subdivides the shield into two domains: a small group of noninvoluting cells, the dorsal forerunner cells, express ndr1, while ndr2 RNA is found in the hypoblast layer of the shield and later in notochord, prechordal plate, and overlying anterior neurectoderm. During somitogenesis, ndr2 is expressed asymmetrically in the lateral plate as are nodal-related genes of other organisms, and in a small domain in the left diencephalon, providing the first observation of asymmetric gene expression in the embryonic forebrain. RNA injections into Xenopus animal caps showed that Ndr1 acts as a mesoderm inducer, whereas Ndr2 is an efficient neural but very inefficient mesoderm inducer. We suggest that Ndr1 has a role in mesoderm induction, while Ndr2 is involved in subsequent specification and patterning of the nervous system and establishment of laterality.

Rebagliati, M. R., Toyama, R., Haffter, P. and Dawid, I. B. (1998a). Cyclops encodes a nodal-related factor involved in midline signaling. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 95, 9932-7.

Ventral structures in the central nervous system are patterned by signals emanating from the underlying mesoderm as well as originating within the neuroectoderm. Mutations in the zebrafish, Danio rerio, are proving instrumental in dissecting these midline signals. The cyclops mutation leads to a loss of medial floor plate and to severe deficits in ventral forebrain development, leading to cyclopia. Here, we report that the cyclops locus encodes the nodal-related protein Ndr2, a member of the transforming growth factor type beta superfamily of factors. The evidence includes identification of a missense mutation in the initiation codon and rescue of the cyclops phenotype by expression of ndr2 RNA, here renamed ''cyclops.'' Thus, in interaction with other molecules implicated in these processes such as sonic hedgehog and one-eyed-pinhead, cyclops is required for ventral midline patterning of the embryonic central nervous system.

Ribera, A. B. and Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (1998) Zebrafish touch-insensitive mutants reveal an essential role for the developmental regulation of sodium current. J Neurosci 18, 9181-91.

Developmental changes in neuronal connectivity and membrane properties underlie the stage-specific appearance of embryonic behaviors. The behavioral response of embryonic zebrafish to tactile stimulation first appears at 27 hr postfertilization. Because the touch response requires the activation of mechanosensory Rohon-Beard neurons, we have used whole-cell recordings in semi-intact preparations to characterize Rohon-Beard cell electrical membrane properties in several touch-insensitive mutants and then to correlate the development of excitability in these cells with changes in wildtype behavior. Electrophysiological analysis of mechanosensory neurons of touch-insensitive zebrafish mutants indicates that in three mutant lines that have been examined the sodium current amplitudes are reduced, and action potentials either have diminished overshoots or are not generated. In macho mutants the action potential never overshoots, and the sodium current remains small; alligator and steifftier show similar but weaker effects. The effects are specific to sodium channel function; resting membrane potentials are unaffected, and outward currents of normal amplitude are present. Developmental analysis of sodium current expression in mechanosensory neurons of wild-type embryos indicates that, during the transition from a touch-insensitive to a touch-sensitive embryo, action potentials acquire larger overshoots and briefer durations as both sodium and potassium currents increase in amplitude. However, in macho touch-insensitive mutants, developmental changes in action potential overshoot and sodium current are absent despite the normal regulation of action potential duration and potassium current. Thus, the maturation of a voltage-dependent sodium current promotes a behavioral response to touch. A study of these mutants will allow insight into the genes controlling the maturation of the affected sodium current.

Schauerte,  H. E., van Eeden,  F. J. M., Fricke, C., Odenthal, J., Strähle, U. and Haffter P. (1998). Sonic hedgehog is not required for the induction of medial floor plate cells in the zebrafish. Development. 125, 2983-93.

Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a secreted protein that is involved in the organization and patterning of several tissues in vertebrates. We show that the zebrafish sonic-you (syu) gene, a member of a group of five genes required for somite patterning, is encoding Shh. Embryos mutant for a deletion of syu display defects in patterning of the somites, the lateral floor plate cells, the pectoral fins, the axons of motorneurons and the retinal ganglion cells. In contrast to mouse embryos lacking Shh activity, syu mutant embryos do form medial floor plate cells and motorneurons. Since ectopic overexpression of shh in zebrafish embryos does not induce ectopic medial floor plate cells, we conclude that shh is neither required nor sufficient to induce this cell type in the zebrafish.

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Warga, R. M. and Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (1998) Spadetail-dependent cell compaction of the dorsal zebrafish blastula.

The dorsal marginal zone of the zebrafish blastula, equivalent to the amphibian Spemann organizer, is destined to become the tissues of the notochord and prechordal plate. Preceding gastrulation in the zebrafish, we find that these future mesendodermal cells acquire a cohesive cell behavior characterized by flattening and maximization of intercellular contacts, somewhat resembling cell compaction in mouse blastocysts. This behavior may suppress cell intermingling. Surprisingly, this blastula cell compaction requires normal function of spadetail, a gene known to be necessary for the dorsal convergent cell movement of paraxial mesoderm later in the gastrula. We propose that spadetail-dependent cell compaction subtly controls the early mixing and dispersal of dorsal cells that coalesce into the prospective organizer region. This early process may be necessary for the correct location of the boundary separating axial and paraxial cells.