Beattie, C.E., Melancon, E., and Eisen, J.S. (2000) Mutations in the stumpy gene reveal intermediate targets for zebrafish motor axons. Development (Cambridge, England). 127(12):2653-2662.
Primary motoneurons, the earliest developing spinal motoneurons in zebrafish, have highly stereotyped axon projections. Although much is known about the development of these neurons, the molecular cues guiding their axons have not been identified. In a screen designed to reveal mutations affecting motor axons, we isolated two mutations in the stumpy gene that dramatically affect pathfinding by the primary motoneuron, CaP. In stumpy mutants, CaP axons extend along the common pathway, a region shared by other primary motor axons, but stall at an intermediate target, the horizontal myoseptum, and fail to extend along their axon-specific pathway during the first day of development. Later, most CaP axons progress a short distance beyond the horizontal myoseptum, but tend to stall at another intermediate target. Mosaic analysis revealed that stumpy function is needed both autonomously in CaP and non-autonomously in other cells. stumpy function is also required for axons of other primary and secondary motoneurons to progress properly past intermediate targets and to branch. These results reveal a series of intermediate targets involved in motor axon guidance and suggest that stumpy function is required for motor axons to progress from proximally located intermediate targets to distally located ones.