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Development. 2009 May;136(10):1653-63. doi: 10.1242/dev.033290. Epub 2009 Apr 15.

Neuroepithelial cells require fucosylated glycans to guide the migration of vagus motor neuron progenitors in the developing zebrafish hindbrain.

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Laboratory for Developmental Gene Regulation, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan.


The molecular mechanisms by which neurons migrate and accumulate to form the neural layers and nuclei remain unclear. The formation of vagus motor nuclei in zebrafish embryos is an ideal model system in which to address this issue because of the transparency of the embryos and the availability of established genetic and molecular biological techniques. To determine the genes required for the formation of the vagus motor nuclei, we performed N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea-based mutant screening using a zebrafish line that expresses green fluorescent protein in the motor neurons. In wild-type embryos, the vagus motor neuron progenitors are born in the ventral ventricular zone, then migrate tangentially in the dorsolateral direction, forming the nuclei. However, in towhead (twd(rw685)) mutant embryos, the vagus motor neuron progenitors stray medially away from the normal migratory pathway and fail to stop in the right location. The twd(rw685) mutant has a defect in the GDP-mannose 4,6 dehydratase (gmds) gene, which encodes a key enzyme in the fucosylation pathway. Levels of fucosylated glycans were markedly and specifically reduced in twd(rw685) mutant embryos. Cell transplantation analysis revealed that GMDS is not essential in the vagus motor neuron progenitors for correct formation of the vagus motor nuclei, but is required in the neuroepithelial cells that surround the progenitors. Together, these findings suggest that fucosylated glycans expressed in neuroepithelial cells are required to guide the migration of vagus motor neuron progenitors.

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