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Development. 2003 Jul;130(14):3331-42.

A temperature-sensitive mutation in the nodal-related gene cyclops reveals that the floor plate is induced during gastrulation in zebrafish.

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  • 1Laboratory of Fish Embryology, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, 1 Research Link, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117604.


The floor plate, a specialized group of cells in the ventral midline of the neural tube of vertebrates, plays crucial roles in patterning the central nervous system. Recent work from zebrafish, chick, chick-quail chimeras and mice to investigate the development of the floor plate have led to several models of floor-plate induction. One model suggests that the floor plate is formed by inductive signalling from the notochord to the overlying neural tube. The induction is thought to be mediated by notochord-derived Sonic hedgehog (Shh), a secreted protein, and requires direct cellular contact between the notochord and the neural tube. Another model proposes a role for the organizer in generating midline precursor cells that produce floor plate cells independent of notochord specification, and proposes that floor plate specification occurs early, during gastrulation. We describe a temperature-sensitive mutation that affects the zebrafish Nodal-related secreted signalling factor, Cyclops, and use it to address the issue of when the floor plate is induced in zebrafish. Zebrafish cyclops regulates the expression of shh in the ventral neural tube. Although null mutations in cyclops result in the lack of the medial floor plate, embryos homozygous for the temperature-sensitive mutation have floor plate cells at the permissive temperature and lack floor plate cells at the restrictive temperature. We use this mutant allele in temperature shift-up and shift-down experiments to answer a central question pertaining to the timing of vertebrate floor plate induction. Abrogation of Cyc/Nodal signalling in the temperature-sensitive mutant embryos at various stages indicates that the floor plate in zebrafish is induced early in development, during gastrulation. In addition, continuous Cyclops signalling is required through gastrulation for a complete ventral neural tube throughout the length of the neuraxis. Finally, by modulation of Nodal signalling levels in mutants and in ectopic overexpression experiments, we show that, similar to the requirements for prechordal plate mesendoderm fates, uninterrupted and high levels of Cyclops signalling are required for induction and specification of a complete ventral neural tube.

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