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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2002;13(4):308-22.

Molecular dissection of craniofacial development using zebrafish.

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  • 1The Forsyth Institute, Department of Cytokine Biology, and Harvard-Forsyth Department of Oral Biology, 140 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115, USA. pyelick@forsyth.org


The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is a small, freshwater teleost that only began to be used as a vertebrate genetic model by the late George Streisinger in the early 1980s. The strengths of the zebrafish complement genetic studies in mice and embryological studies in avians. Its advantages include high fecundity, externally fertilized eggs and transparent embryos that can be easily manipulated, inexpensive maintenance, and the fact that large-scale mutagenesis screens can be performed. Here we review studies that have used the zebrafish as a model for craniofacial development. Lineage studies in zebrafish have defined the origins of the cranial skeleton at the single-cell level and followed the morphogenetic behaviors of these cells in skeletal condensations. Furthermore, genes identified by random mutational screening have now revealed genetic pathways controlling patterning of the jaw and other pharyngeal arches, as well as the midline of the skull, that are conserved between fish and humans. We discuss the potential impact of specialized mutagenesis screens and the future applications of this versatile, vertebrate developmental model system in the molecular dissection of craniofacial development.

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