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Development. 1996 Dec;123:399-413.

Genes controlling and mediating locomotion behavior of the zebrafish embryo and larva.

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  • 1Max Planck Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abteilung Genetik, Tübingen, Germany.


Zebrafish embryos and larvae have stage-specific patterns of motility or locomotion. Two embryonic structures accomplish this behavior: the central nervous system (CNS) and skeletal muscles. To identify genes that are functionally involved in mediating and controlling different patterns of embryonic and larval motility, we included a simple touch response test in our zebrafish large-scale genetic screen. In total we identified 166 mutants with specific defects in embryonic motility. These mutants fall into 14 phenotypically distinct groups comprising at least 48 genes. Here we describe the various phenotypic groups including mutants with no or reduced motility, mechanosensory defective mutants, 'spastic' mutants, circling mutants and motor circuit defective mutants. In 63 mutants, defining 18 genes, striation of somitic muscles is reduced. Phenotypic analysis provides evidence that these 18 genes have distinct and consecutive functions during somitic muscle development. The genes sloth (slo) and frozen (fro) already act during myoblast differentiation, while 13 genes appear to function later, in the formation of myofibers and the organization of sarcomeres. Mutations in four other genes result in muscle-specific degeneration. 103 mutations, defining at least 30 genes, cause no obvious defects in muscle formation and may instead affect neuronal development. Analysis of the behavioral defects suggests that these genes participate in the diverse locomotion patterns observed, such as touch response, rhythmic tail movements, equilibrium control, or that they simply confer general motility to the animal. In some of these mutants specific defects in the developing nervous system are detected. Mutations in two genes, nevermind (nev) and macho (mao), affect axonal projection in the optic tectum, whereas axon formation and elongation of motorneurons are disrupted by mutations in the diwanka (diw) and the unplugged (unp) genes.

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