Ikenaga, T., Urban, J.M., Gebhart, N., Hatta, K., Kawakami, K., and Ono, F. (2011) Formation of the spinal network in zebrafish determined by domain-specific pax genes. The Journal of comparative neurology. 519(8):1562-1579.
In the formation of the spinal network, various transcription factors interact to develop specific cell types. By using a gene trap technique, we established a stable line of zebrafish in which the red fluorescent protein (RFP) was inserted into the pax8 gene. RFP insertion marked putative pax8-lineage cells with fluorescence and inhibited pax8 expression in homozygous embryos. Pax8 homozygous embryos displayed defects in the otic vesicle, as previously reported in studies with morpholinos. The pax8 homozygous embryos survived to adulthood, in contrast to mammalian counterparts that die prematurely. RFP is expressed in the dorsal spinal cord. Examination of the axon morphology revealed that RFP+ neurons include commissural bifurcating longitudinal (CoBL) interneurons, but other inhibitory neurons such as commissural local (CoLo) interneurons and circumferential ascending (CiA) interneurons do not express RFP. We examined the effect of inhibiting pax2a/pax8 expression on interneuron development. In pax8 homozygous fish, the RFP+ cells underwent differentiation similar to that of pax8 heterozygous fish, and the swimming behavior remained intact. In contrast, the RFP+ cells of pax2a/pax8 double mutants displayed altered cell fates. CoBLs were not observed. Instead, RFP+ cells exhibited axons descending ipsilaterally, a morphology resembling that of V2a/V2b interneurons.