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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 12;8(4):e58858. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058858. Print 2013.

Def functions as a cell autonomous factor in organogenesis of digestive organs in zebrafish.

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Key Laboratory for Molecular Animal Nutrition, Ministry of Education, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.


Digestive organs originate from the endoderm. Morphogenesis of the digestive system is precisely controlled by multiple factors that dictate the cell fate and behavior so that the specific digestive organs are timely formed in the right place and develop into right size and structure. We showed previously that digestive organ expansion factor (def) is a gene whose expression is enriched in the liver, pancreas and intestine. Loss-of-function of def in the def(hi429) mutant confers hypoplastic digestive organs partly due to alteration of expression of genes related to the p53 pathway. However, the molecular mechanism for the involvement of Def in the organogenesis of digestive organs is still largely unknown. For example, it is not known whether Def regulates specific pathways in a specific organ. To address this question, we generated four independent Tg(fabp10a:def) transgenic fish lines which over-expressed Def specifically in the liver. We characterized Tg-I, one of the transgenic lines, in detail with genetic, molecular and histological approaches. We found that Tg-I restored the liver but not exocrine pancreas and intestine development in the def(hi429) mutant. However, Tg-I adult fish in the wild type (WT) background exhibits reduced liver-to-body ratio and all four transgenic lines conferred abnormal intrahepatic structure. Microarray data analysis showed that certain specific functional pathways were affected in the liver of Tg-I. These results demonstrate that Def functions in a cell autonomous manner during early liver development and aberrant Def protein expression might lead to disruption of the structural integrity of a normal adult liver.

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