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Mech Dev. 2005 Jan;122(1):43-56.

Hedgehog and retinoid signalling confines nkx2.2b expression to the lateral floor plate of the zebrafish trunk.

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Department of Physiological Chemistry I, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany.


The ventral neural tube of vertebrates consists of distinct neural progenitor domains positioned along the dorsoventral (DV) axis that develop different types of moto- and interneurons. Several signalling molecules, most notably Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), retinoic acid (RA) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) have been implicated in the generation of these domains. Shh is secreted from the floor plate, the ventral most neural tube structure that consists of the medial (MFP) and the lateral floor plate (LFP). While the MFP is well characterized, organization and function of the LFP remains unclear. Here, we describe the novel homeobox gene nkx2.2b that is strongly expressed in the trunk LFP of zebrafish and thus represents a unique marker for the characterization of LFP formation and the identification of LFP deficient mutants. nkx2.2b and its paralog nkx2.2a (formerly known as nk2.2 and nkx2.2) arose by gene duplication in zebrafish. Both duplicates show significant differences in their expression patterns. For example, while prominent nkx2.2a expression has been described in the ventral brain [Barth, K.A., Wilson, S.W., 1995. Expression of zebrafish nk2.2 is influenced by sonic hedgehog/vertebrate hedgehog-1 and demarcates a zone of neuronal differentiation in the embryonic forebrain. Development 121, 1755-1768], hardly any expression can be found in the trunk LFP, which is in contrast to nkx2.2b. Overexpression, mutant and inhibitor analyses show that nkx2.2b expression in the LFP is up-regulated by Shh, but repressed by retinoids and ectopic islet-1 (isl1) expression. In contrast to previously described zebrafish trunk LFP markers, like e.g. tal2 or foxa2, nkx2.2b is exclusively expressed in the LFP. Thus, it represents a unique tool to analyse the mechanisms of ventral neural tube patterning in zebrafish.

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