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Development. 1999 Nov;126(22):4977-87.

Bmp activity establishes a gradient of positional information throughout the entire neural plate.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (Bmps) are key regulators of dorsoventral (DV) patterning. Within the ectoderm, Bmp activity has been shown to inhibit neural development, promote epidermal differentiation and influence the specification of dorsal neurons and neural crest. In this study, we examine the patterning of neural tissue in mutant zebrafish embryos with compromised Bmp signalling activity. We find that although Bmp activity does not influence anteroposterior (AP) patterning, it does affect DV patterning at all AP levels of the neural plate. Thus, we show that Bmp activity is required for specification of cell fates around the margin of the entire neural plate, including forebrain regions that do not form neural crest. Surprisingly, we find that Bmp activity is also required for patterning neurons at all DV levels of the CNS. In swirl/bmp2b(-) (swr(-)) embryos, laterally positioned sensory neurons are absent whereas more medial interneuron populations are hugely expanded. However, in somitabun(-) (sbn(-)) embryos, which probably retain higher residual Bmp activity, it is the sensory neurons and not the interneurons that are expanded. Conversely, in severely Bmp depleted embryos, both interneurons and sensory neurons are absent and it is the most medial neurons that are expanded. These results are consistent with there being a gradient of Bmp-dependent positional information extending throughout the entire neural and non-neural ectoderm.

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