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Dev Biol. 2003 Mar 1;255(1):12-29.

Unique and conserved aspects of gut development in zebrafish.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Although the development of the digestive system of humans and vertebrate model organisms has been well characterized, relatively little is known about how the zebrafish digestive system forms. We define developmental milestones during organogenesis of the zebrafish digestive tract, liver, and pancreas and identify important differences in the way the digestive endoderm of zebrafish and amniotes is organized. Such differences account for the finding that the zebrafish digestive system is assembled from individual organ anlagen, whereas the digestive anlagen of amniotes arise from a primitive gut tube. Despite differences of organ morphogenesis, conserved molecular programs regulate pharynx, esophagus, liver, and pancreas development in teleosts and mammals. Specifically, we show that zebrafish faust/gata-5 is a functional ortholog of gata-4, a gene that is essential for the formation of the mammalian and avian foregut. Further, extraembryonic gata activity is required for this function in zebrafish as has been shown in other vertebrates. We also show that a loss-of-function mutation that perturbs sonic hedgehog causes defects in the development of the esophagus that parallel those associated with targeted disruption of this gene in mammals. Perturbation of sonic hedgehog also affects zebrafish liver and pancreas development, and these effects occur in a reciprocal fashion, as has been described during mammalian liver and ventral pancreas development. Together, these data define aspects of digestive system development necessary for the characterization of zebrafish mutants. Given the similarities of teleost and mammalian digestive physiology and anatomy, these findings have implications for developmental and evolutionary studies as well as research of human diseases, such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and cancer.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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