Bauer, H., Meier, A., Hild, M., Stachel, S., Economides, A., Hazelett, D., Harland, R.M., and Hammerschmidt, M. (1998) Follistatin and Noggin are excluded from the zebrafish organizer. Developmental Biology. 204:488-507.
The patterning activity of the Spemann organizer in early amphibian embryos has been characterized by a number of organizer-specific secreted proteins including Chordin, Noggin, and Follistatin, which all share the same inductive properties. They can neuralize ectoderm and dorsalize ventral mesoderm by blocking the ventralizing signals Bmp2 and Bmp4. In the zebrafish, null mutations in the chordin gene, named chordino, lead to a severe reduction of organizer activity, indicating that Chordino is an essential, but not the only, inductive signal generated by the zebrafish organizer. A second gene required for zebrafish organizer function is mercedes, but the molecular nature of its product is not known as yet. To investigate whether and how Follistatin and Noggin are involved in dorsoventral (D-V) patterning of the zebrafish embryo, we have now isolated and characterized their zebrafish homologues. Overexpression studies demonstrate that both proteins have the same dorsalizing properties as their Xenopus homologues. However, unlike the Xenopus genes, zebrafish follistatin and noggin are not expressed in the organizer region, nor are they linked to the mercedes mutation. Expression of both genes starts at midgastrula stages. While no patterned noggin expression was detectable by in situ hybridization during gastrulation stages, later expression is confined to presumptive cartilage cells in the branchial arches and the neurocranium and to proximal regions of the pectoral fin buds. follistatin transcripts in gastrulating embryos are confined to anterior paraxial regions, which give rise to head mesoderm and the first five somites. The dorsolateral extent of this expression domain is regulated by Bmp2b, Chordino, and Follistatin itself. In addition, transient expression was observed in a subset of cells in the posterior notochord anlage. Later, follistatin is expressed in brain, eyes, and somites. Comparison of the spatiotemporal expression pattern of follistatin and noggin with those of bmp2b and bmp4 and overexpression studies suggest that Noggin and Follistatin may function as Bmp antagonists in later processes of zebrafish development, including late phases of D-V patterning, to refine the early pattern set up by the interaction of Chordino and Bmp2/4. It thus appears that many, but not all, aspects of early dorsoventral patterning are shared among different vertebrate species.