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Dev Dyn. 1996 Feb;205(2):183-95.

Secondary axis induction by heterospecific organizers in zebrafish.

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Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403-1254, USA.


To investigate the inductive activities of the vertebrate organizer, we transplanted the chicken organizer (Hensen's node) into zebrafish gastrula and analyzed resulting secondary axes. Grafted Hensen's node did not differentiate or participate in the secondary axis. It also did not induce a secondary notochord or expression of the genes normally expressed by the fish organizer including no tail, axial, goosecoid. Nevertheless, it recruited fish cells to organize a variety of tissues: the dorsal portion of the central nervous system including Rohon-Beard sensory neurons, otic vesicles, dorsal pigment stripe, dorsal fin, somites, heart, and pronephric ducts. Enlarged neural plate induced by the organizer was shown by the expression pattern of dlx3 and msxB genes, which demarcates the early presumptive neural tissue. In addition, Hensen's node of an earlier stage chicken embryo displayed differential movement in zebrafish from that of a later stage. This might reflect unknown differences in properties between the organizer at two different developmental stages related to its normal organizer activity. To create a model system to study the molecular mechanisms of the organizer, we next transplanted genetically modified mouse cells into zebrafish embryos. We found that Wnt3A-transfected NIH3T3 cells are much more potent in inducing a secondary axis than NIH3T3 cells alone. These results suggest that formation of a variety of tissues are controlled by signalling from the organizer itself with no requirement of participation of the organizer-derived tissues. Additionally, the activities of the organizer may involve a function of Wnt-family genes.

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