Elsalini, O.A., Gartzen, J., Cramer, M., and Rohr, K.B. (2003) Zebrafish hhex, nk2.1a, and pax2.1 regulate thyroid growth and differentiation downstream of Nodal-dependent transcription factors. Developmental Biology. 263(1):67-80.
During zebrafish development, the thyroid primordium initiates expression of molecular markers such as hhex and nk2.1a in the endoderm prior to pharynx formation. As expected for an endodermally derived organ, initiation of thyroid development depends on Nodal signalling. We find that it also depends on three downstream effectors of Nodal activity, casanova (cas), bonnie and clyde (bon), and faust (fau)/gata5. Despite their early Nodal-dependent expression in the endoderm, both hhex and nk2.1a are only required relatively late during thyroid development. In hhex and nk2.1a loss-of-function phenotypes, thyroid development is initiated and arrests only after the primordium has evaginated from the pharyngeal epithelium. Thus, like pax2.1, both hhex and nk2.1a have similarly late roles in differentiation or growth of thyroid follicular cells, and here, we show that all three genes act in parallel rather than in a single pathway. Our functional analysis suggests that these genes have similar roles as in mammalian thyroid development, albeit in a different temporal mode of organogenesis.