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Dev Biol. 1999 Sep 15;213(2):231-45.

Gastrulation in zebrafish: what mutants teach us.

Author information

1
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Building 6B/Room 420, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA. kodja@nih.gov

Abstract

A major approach to the study of development is to compare the phenotypes of normal and mutant individuals for a given genetic locus. Understanding the development of a complex metazoan therefore requires examination of many mutants. Relatively few organisms are being studied this way, and zebrafish is currently the best example of a vertebrate for which large-scale mutagenesis screens have successfully been carried out. The number of genes mutated in zebrafish that have been cloned expands rapidly, bringing new insights into a number of developmental pathways operating in vertebrates. Here, we discuss work on zebrafish mutants affecting gastrulation and patterning of the early embryo. Gastrulation is orchestrated by the dorsal organizer, which forms in a region where maternally derived beta-catenin signaling is active. Mutation in the zygotic homeobox gene bozozok disrupts the organizer genetic program and leads to severe axial deficiencies, indicating that this gene is a functional target of beta-catenin signaling. Once established, the organizer releases inhibitors of ventralizing signals, such as BMPs, and promotes dorsoanterior fates within all germ layers. In zebrafish, several mutations affecting dorsal-ventral (D/V) patterning inactivate genes functioning in the BMP pathway, stressing the central role of this pathway in the gastrula embryo. Cells derived from the organizer differentiate into several axial structures, such as notochord and prechordal mesoderm, which are thought to induce various fates in adjacent tissues, such as the floor plate, after the completion of gastrulation. Studies with mutants in nodal-related genes, in one-eyed pinhead, which is required for nodal signaling, and in the Notch pathway reveal that midline cell fate specification is, in fact, initiated during gastrulation. Furthermore, the organizer coordinates morphogenetic movements, and zebrafish mutants in T-box mesoderm-specific genes help clarify the mechanism of convergence movements required for the formation of axial and paraxial mesoderm.

PMID:
10479444
DOI:
10.1006/dbio.1999.9392
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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