Wilson, S.W., Ross, L.S., Parrett, T., and Easter, S.S. Jr. (1990) The development of a simple scaffold of axon tracts in the brain of the embryonic zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio. Development (Cambridge, England). 108:121-145.
We have examined neuronal differentiation and the formation of axon tracts in the embryonic forebrain and midbrain of the zebrafish, between 1 and 2 days postfertilisation. Axons were visualised with three techniques; immunocytochemistry (using HNK-1 and antiacetylated tubulin antibodies) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) labelling in whole-mounted brains, and transmission electron microscopy. Differentiation was monitored by histochemical staining for acetylcholinesterase (AChE). These independent methods demonstrated that a simple grid of tracts and commissures forms the initial axon scaffold of the brain. At 1 day, the olfactory nerve, four commissures, their associated tracts and three other non-commissural tracts are present. By 2 days, these tracts and commissures have all greatly enlarged and, in addition, the optic nerve and tract, and three new commissures and their associated tracts have been added. Small applications of HRP at various sites revealed the origins and projections of some of these earliest axons. Retrogradely labelled cell bodies originated from regions that were also positive for AChE activity. At 1 day, HRP-labelled axons were traced: (1) from the olfactory placode through the olfactory nerve to the dorsal telencephalon; (2) from the telencephalon into the tract of the anterior commissure and also to the postoptic region of the diencephalon; (3) from the hindbrain through the ventral midbrain and diencephalon to the postoptic commissure; (4) from the dorsal diencephalon (in or near the epiphysis) to the tract of the postoptic commissure; (5) from ventral and rostral midbrain through the posterior commissure. Three new projections were demonstrated at 2 days: (1) from the retina through the tract of the postoptic commissure to the tectum; (2) from the telencephalon to the contralateral diencephalon; and (3) from the telencephalon to the ventral flexure. These results show that at 1 day, the zebrafish brain is impressively simple, with a few small, well-separated tracts but by 2 days the brain is already considerably more complex. Most of the additional axons added onto pre-existent tracts rather than pioneered new ones supporting the notion that other axons play a crucial role in the guidance of early central nervous system (CNS) axons.