Guner, B., and Karlstrom, R.O. (2007) Cloning of zebrafish nkx6.2 and a comprehensive analysis of the conserved transcriptional response to Hedgehog/Gli signaling in the zebrafish neural tube. Gene expression patterns : GEP. 7(5):596-605.
Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling helps pattern the vertebrate neural tube, in part by regulating the dorsal/ventral expression of a number of homeodomain containing transcription factors. These Hh responsive genes have been divided into two classes, with Class II genes being activated by Hh signaling and Class I genes being repressed by Hh signaling. While the transcriptional response to varying Hh levels is well defined in chick and mouse, it is only partially described in zebrafish, despite the fact that zebrafish has emerged as a powerful genetic system for the study of neural patterning. To better characterize the Hh response in the zebrafish neural tube, we cloned the zebrafish Class II Hh target genes nkx2.9 and nkx6.2. We then analyzed the expression of a number of Class I and Class II Hh responsive genes in wild type, Hh mutant, and Hh over-expressing zebrafish embryos. We show that expression of Class I and Class II genes is highly conserved in the vertebrate neural tube. Further, ventral-most Class II gene expression was completely lost in all Hh pathway mutants analyzed, indicating high levels of Hh signaling are blocked in all of these mutants. In contrast, more dorsally expressed genes were variably affected in different Hh pathway mutants, indicating mid-levels of Hh signaling are differentially affected. This comprehensive expression study provides an important tool for the characterization of Hh signaling in zebrafish and provides a sensitive assay for determining the degree to which newly identified zebrafish mutants affect Hh signaling.