Nguyen, C.T., Langenbacher, A., Hsieh, M., and Chen, J.N. (2010) The Paf1 complex component Leo1 is essential for cardiac and neural crest development in zebrafish. Developmental Biology. 341(1):167-175.
Leo1 is a component of the Polymerase-Associated Factor 1 (PAF1) complex, an evolutionarily conserved protein complex involved in gene transcription regulation and chromatin remodeling. The role of leo1 in vertebrate embryogenesis has not previously been examined. Here, we report that zebrafish leo1 encodes a nuclear protein that has a similar molecular structure to Leo1 proteins from other species. From a genetic screen, we identified a zebrafish mutant defective in the leo1 gene. The truncated Leo1(LA1186) protein lacks a nuclear localization signal and is distributed mostly in the cytoplasm. Phenotypic analysis showed that while the initial patterning of the primitive heart tube is not affected in leo1(LA1186) mutant embryos, the differentiation of cardiomyocytes at the atrioventricular boundary is aberrant, suggesting a requirement for Leo1 in cardiac differentiation. In addition, the expression levels of markers for neural crest-derived cells such as crestin, gch2, dct and mitfa, are greatly reduced in leo1(LA1186) mutants, indicating a requirement for Leo1 in maintaining the neural crest population. Consistent with this finding, melanocyte and xanthophore populations are severely reduced, craniofacial cartilage is barely detectable, and mbp-positive glial cells are absent in leo1(LA1186) mutants after three days of development. Taken together, these results provide the first genetic evidence of the requirement for Leo1 in the development of the heart and neural crest cell populations.