Reifers, F., Adams, J., Mason, I.J., Schulte-Merker, S., and Brand, M. (2000) Overlapping and distinct functions provided by fgf17, a new zebrafish member of the Fgf8/17/18 subgroup of Fgfs. Mechanisms of Development. 99(1-2):39-49.
Members of the fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) family are important signaling molecules in several inductive and patterning processes, and act as brain organizer-derived signals during formation of the early vertebrate nervous system. We isolated a new member of the Fgf8/17/18 subgroup of Fgfs from the zebrafish, and studied its expression and function during somitogenesis, optic stalk and midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB) development. In spite of a slightly higher aminoacid similarity to Fgf8, expression analysis and mapping to a chromosome stretch that is syntenic with mammalian chromosomes shows that this gene is orthologous to mammalian Fgf17. These data provide a further example of conserved chromosomal organization between zebrafish and mammalian genomes. Using an mRNA injection assay, we show that fgf17 can act similar to fgf8 during gastrulation, when fgf17 is not normally expressed. Direct comparison of the expression patterns of fgf17 and fgf8 suggest however a possible cooperation of these Fgfs at later stages in several tissues requiring Fgf signaling. Analysis of zebrafish MHB mutants demonstrates a gene-dosage dependent requirement of fgf17 expression for the no isthmus// pax2.1 gene, showing that no isthmus/pax2.1 functions upstream of fgf17 at the MHB in a haplo-insufficient manner, similar to what has been reported for mammalian pax2 mutants. In contrast, only maintenance of fgf17 expression is disturbed at the MHB of acerebellar/fgf8 mutants. Consistent with a requirement for fgf8 function, implantation of FGF8-soaked beads induces fgf17 expression, and expression is upregulated in aussicht mutants, which display upregulation of the Fgf8 signaling pathway. Taken together, our results argue that Fgf8 and Fgf17 act as hierarchically organized signaling molecules during development of the MHB organizer and possibly other organizers in the developing nervous system.