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Development. 2001 Jun;128(11):2131-42.

The zebrafish space cadet gene controls axonal pathfinding of neurons that modulate fast turning movements.

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


All vertebrates depend on neural circuits to produce propulsive movements; however, the contribution of individual neural cell types to control such movements are not well understood. We report that zebrafish space cadet mutant larvae fail to initiate fast turning movements properly, and we show that this motor phenotype correlates with axonal defects in a small population of commissural hindbrain neurons, which we identify as spiral fiber neurons. Moreover, we demonstrate that severing spiral fiber axons produces space cadet-like locomotor defects, thereby providing compelling evidence that the space cadet gene plays an essential role in integrating these neurons into the circuitry that modulates fast turning movements. Finally, we show that axonal defects are restricted to a small set of commissural trajectories, including retinal ganglion cell axons and spiral fiber axons, and that the space cadet gene functions in axonal pathfinding. Together, our results provide a rare example in vertebrates of an individual neuronal cell type that contributes to the expression of a defined motor behavior. Movies available on-line

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