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Curr Biol. 1999 Dec 16-30;9(24):1431-40.

A mutation in the zebrafish maternal-effect gene nebel affects furrow formation and vasa RNA localization.

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  • 1Laboratory of Genetics, Max Planck Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.



In many animals, embryonic patterning depends on a careful interplay between cell division and the segregation of localized cellular components. Both of these processes in turn rely on cytoskeletal elements and motor proteins. A type of localized cellular component found in most animals is the germ plasm, a specialized region of cytoplasm that specifies the germ-cell fate. The gene vasa has been shown in Drosophila to encode an essential component of the germ plasm and is thought to have a similar function in other organisms. In the zebrafish embryo, the vasa RNA is localized to the furrows of the early cellular divisions.


We identified the gene nebel in a pilot screen for zebrafish maternal-effect mutations. Embryos from females homozygous for a mutation in nebel exhibit defects in cell adhesion. Our analysis provides genetic evidence for a function of the microtubule array that normally develops at the furrow in the deposition of adhesive membrane at the cleavage plane. In addition, nebel mutant embryos show defects in the early localization of vasa RNA. The vasa RNA localization phenotype could be mimicked with microtubule-inhibiting drugs, and confocal microscopy suggests an interaction between microtubules and vasa-RNA-containing aggregates.


Our data support two functions for the microtubule reorganization at the furrow, one for the exocytosis of adhesive membrane, and another for the translocation of vasa RNA along the forming furrow.

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