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Development. 1999 Aug;126(15):3461-72.

The zebrafish diwanka gene controls an early step of motor growth cone migration.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6058, USA.


During vertebrate embryogenesis different classes of motor axons exit the spinal cord and migrate on common axonal paths into the periphery. Surprisingly little is known about how this initial migration of spinal motor axons is controlled by external cues. Here, we show that the diwanka gene is required for growth cone migration of three identified subtypes of zebrafish primary motoneurons. In diwanka mutant embryos, motor growth cone migration within the spinal cord is unaffected but it is strongly impaired as motor axons enter their common path to the somites. Chimera analysis shows that diwanka gene activity is required in a small set of myotomal cells, called adaxial cells. We identified a subset of the adaxial cells to be sufficient to rescue the diwanka motor axon defect. Moreover, we show that this subset of adaxial cells delineates the common axonal path prior to axonogenesis, and we show that interactions between these adaxial cells and motor growth cones are likely to be transient. The studies demonstrate that a distinct population of myotomal cells plays a pivotal role in the early migration of zebrafish motor axons and identify the diwanka gene as a somite-derived cue required to establish an axonal path from the spinal cord to the somites.

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