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Development. 2004 Mar;131(6):1299-308. Epub 2004 Feb 18.

Reiterated Wnt signaling during zebrafish neural crest development.

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  • 1Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


While Wnt/beta-catenin signaling is known to be involved in the development of neural crest cells in zebrafish, it is unclear which Wnts are involved, and when they are required. To address these issues we employed a zebrafish line that was transgenic for an inducible inhibitor of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, and inhibited endogenous Wnt/beta-catenin signaling at discrete times in development. Using this approach, we defined a critical period for Wnt signaling in the initial induction of neural crest, which is distinct from the later period of development when pigment cells are specified from neural crest. Blocking Wnt signaling during this early period interfered with neural crest formation without blocking development of dorsal spinal neurons. Transplantation experiments suggest that neural crest precursors must directly transduce a Wnt signal. With regard to identifying which endogenous Wnt is responsible for this initial critical period, we established that wnt8 is expressed in the appropriate time and place to participate in this process. Supporting a role for Wnt8, blocking its function with antisense morpholino oligonucleotides eliminates initial expression of neural crest markers. Taken together, these results demonstrate that Wnt signals are critical for the initial induction of zebrafish neural crest and suggest that this signaling pathway plays reiterated roles in its development.

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