The spadetail (spt) gene of zebrafish is expressed in presomitic mesoderm and in neural cells previously suggested to be Rohon-Beard neurons. The mechanism(s) generating the apparently irregular rostrocaudal distribution of spt-expressing cells in the developing CNS is unknown.
spt-expressing neural cells co-express huC, a marker of neurons. These cells also co-express the genes islet-1, -2 and -3 but not valentino. The islet-1 gene expression, irregular distribution and dorsolateral position of spt -expressing cells in the developing CNS are characteristic of dorsal longitudinal ascending (DoLA) interneurons. Shortly after their birth, these neurons extend processes rostrally into which spt mRNA is transported. At 24 hours post fertilisation(hpf), spt-expressing neurons occur most frequently at rostral levels caudal of the 5th-formed somite pair. There is no apparent bias in the number of spt-expressing cells on the left or right sides of embryos. Extended staining for spt-transcription reveals expression in the dorsocaudal cells of somites at the same dorsoventral level as the spt-expressing neurons. There is frequent juxtaposition of spt-expression in newly formed somites and in neurons. This suggests that both types of spt-expressing cell respond to a common positional cue or that neurons expressing spt are patterned irregularly by flanking somitic mesoderm.
spt-expressing cells in the developing CNS appear to be DoLA interneurons. The irregular distribution of these cells along the rostrocaudal axis of the spinal cord may be due to "inefficient" patterning of neural spt expression by a signal(s) from flanking, regularly distributed somites also expressing spt.