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Dev Genes Evol. 2005 Jul;215(7):350-7. Epub 2005 Mar 30.

Heat shock during early somitogenesis induces caudal vertebral column defects in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

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Institute of Marine Research, P.O. Box 1870, Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway.


In several terrestrial vertebrates, heat shock (HS) during somitogenesis causes vertebral deformities. To determine if vertebral deformities can occur due to sudden temperature changes during early development in fish, Atlantic salmon embryos were HS treated during somitogenesis. Ten months later these individuals displayed a high prevalence of caudal vertebral column condensations (27-34%). The defects were located caudally of the abdominal cavity, displaying an even distribution in this region independent of time of HS. To determine if HS disturbed vertebral development during somitogenesis, two genes coding for markers of skeletal development were identified, namely, the secreted protein Shh (Sashh) and the transcription factor Twist (Satwist). These proteins are involved in the proliferation and specification of presumptive skeletal cells (sclerotome) in vertebrates. The spatial expression pattern of sashh and satwist in salmon indicated a functional conservation of these proteins. Furthermore, HS embryos displayed expressional disturbance in both sashh and satwist, indicating an effect of HS on sclerotomal cell patterning. However, the HS-protecting ability in embryos seems to be individually regulated because reduction in gene expression was not detected at all stages; in addition, HS did not induce somitic disturbance and vertebral deformity in all embryos.

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