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Dev Biol. 1999 Nov 15;215(2):190-207.

The nieuwkoid/dharma homeobox gene is essential for bmp2b repression in the zebrafish pregastrula.

Author information

1
Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.

Abstract

Dorsoventral specification of the zebrafish gastrula is governed by the functions of the dorsal shield, a region of the embryo functionally analogous to the amphibian Spemann organizer. We report that the bozozok locus encodes the transcription factor nieuwkoid/dharma, a homeobox gene with non-cell-autonomous organizer-inducing activity. The nieuwkoid/dharma gene is expressed prior to the onset of gastrulation in a restricted region of an extraembryonic tissue, the yolk syncytial layer, that directly underlies the presumptive organizer cells. A single base-pair substitution in the nieuwkoid/dharma gene results in a premature stop codon in boz(m168) mutants, leading to the generation of a truncated protein product which lacks the homeodomain and fails to induce a functional organizer in misexpression assays. Embryos homozygous for the boz(m168) mutation exhibit impaired dorsal shield specification often leading to the loss of shield derivatives, such as prechordal plate in the anterior and notochord in the posterior, along the entire anteroposterior axis. Furthermore, boz homozygotes feature a loss of neural fates anterior to the midbrain/hindbrain boundary. Characterization of homozygous mutant embryos using molecular markers indicates that the boz ventralized phenotype may be due, in part, to the derepression of a secreted antagonizer of dorsal fates, zbmp2b, on the dorsal side of the embryo prior to the onset of gastrulation. Furthermore, ectopic expression of nieuwkoid/dharma RNA is sufficient to lead to the down regulation of zbmp2b expression in the pregastrula. Based on these results, we propose that gastrula organizer specification requires the Nieuwkoop center-like activity mediated by the nieuwkoid/dharma/bozozok homeobox gene and that this activity reveals the role of a much earlier than previously suspected inhibition of ventral determinants prior to dorsal shield formation.

PMID:
10545230
DOI:
10.1006/dbio.1999.9479
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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