Curtin, E., Hickey, G., Kamel, G., Davidson, A.J., and Liao, E.C. (2011) Zebrafish wnt9a is expressed in pharyngeal ectoderm and is required for palate and lower jaw development. Mechanisms of Development. 128(1-2):104-115.
Wnt activity is critical in craniofacial morphogenesis. Dysregulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling results in significant alterations in the facial form, and has been implicated in cleft palate phenotypes in mouse and man. In zebrafish, we show that wnt9a is expressed in the pharyngeal arch, oropharyngeal epithelium that circumscribes the ethmoid plate, and ectodermal cells superficial to the lower jaw structures. Alcian blue staining of morpholino-mediated knockdown of wnt9a results in loss of the ethmoid plate, absence of lateral and posterior parachordals, and significant abrogation of the lower jaw structures. Analysis of cranial neural crest cells in the sox10:eGFP transgenic demonstrates that the wnt9a is required early during pharyngeal development, and confirms that the absence of Alcian blue staining is due to absence of neural crest derived chondrocytes. Molecular analysis of genes regulating cranial neural crest migration and chondrogenic differentiation suggest that wnt9a is dispensable for early cranial neural crest migration, but is required for chondrogenic development of major craniofacial structures. Taken together, these data corroborate the central role for Wnt signaling in vertebrate craniofacial development, and reveal that wnt9a provides the signal from the pharyngeal epithelium to support craniofacial chondrogenic morphogenesis in zebrafish.