Shi, X., Luo, Y., Howley, S., Dzialo, A., Foley, S., Hyde, D.R., and Vihtelic, T.S. (2006) Zebrafish foxe3: Roles in ocular lens morphogenesis through interaction with pitx3. Mechanisms of Development. 123(10):761-782.
Foxe3 is a winged helix/forkhead domain transcription factor necessary for mammalian and amphibian lens development. Human FOXE3 mutations cause anterior segment dysgenesis and cataracts. The zebrafish foxe3 cDNA was PCR amplified from 24h post-fertilization (hpf) embryo cDNA. The zebrafish foxe3 gene consists of a single exon on chromosome 8 and encodes a 422 amino acid protein. This protein possesses 44% and 67% amino acid identity with the human FOXE3 and Xenopus FoxE4 proteins, respectively. A polyclonal antiserum was generated against a bacterial fusion protein containing the Foxe3 carboxyl terminus. The purified antiserum detects zebrafish Foxe3 on immunoblots, in embryo wholemounts, and frozen tissue sections. The zebrafish Foxe3 protein is first detected in the lens at 31hpf and is restricted to the nucleated cell population, including the epithelial and elongating fiber cells. Knockdown of Foxe3 protein using an antisense morpholino results in small lenses with multilayered epithelial cells and fiber cell dysmorphogenesis. The morphants posses normal retinas, although retinal cell proteins, including rhodopsin, are abnormally expressed in the morphant lens tissue. Functional interactions between foxe3 and pitx3 during lens development were assessed by RT-PCR and comparison of Foxe3 and Pitx3 protein expression in both foxe3 and pitx3 morphants. Immunoblots and immunohistochemistry reveal Pitx3 is expressed in the foxe3 morphant lens, while Pitx3 knockdown results in the elimination of Foxe3 expression. These data demonstrate that Foxe3 is necessary for lens development in zebrafish and that foxe3 lies genetically downstream of pitx3 in a zebrafish lens development pathway.