Trinh, L.A., Meyer, D., and Stainier, D.Y. (2003) The Mix family homeodomain gene bonnie and clyde functions with other components of the Nodal signaling pathway to regulate neural patterning in zebrafish. Development (Cambridge, England). 130(20):4989-4998.
Mix family homeodomain proteins, such as Xenopus Mixer and zebrafish Bonnie and clyde (Bon), have been shown to regulate the formation of the endoderm and are likely to be transcriptional mediators of Nodal signaling. Here, we show that, in addition to its previously described role in endoderm formation, Bon also regulates the anteroposterior patterning of the neuroectoderm. bon-mutant embryos exhibit an anterior reduction of the neural plate. By using targeted injection of antisense morpholino oligonucleotides, we demonstrate that Bon is required in the axial mesoderm for anterior neural development. Consistent with these results, bon-mutant embryos show defects in axial mesoderm gene expression starting at mid-gastrulation stages. In addition, genetic analyses demonstrate a functional interaction during neural patterning between bon and two components of the Nodal signaling pathway, the nodal-related gene squint (sqt) and forkhead box H1 [foxh1; mutant locus schmalspur (sur)]. bon(-/-);sqt(-/-) and bon(-/-);sur(-/-) embryos exhibit neural patterning defects that are much more severe than those seen in the single mutants, suggesting that these genes function in parallel in this process. We also show that the severity of the neural patterning defects in the single- and double-mutant embryos correlates with the degree of reduction in expression of the Wnt antagonist gene dickkopf 1. Furthermore, bon(-/-);sqt(-/-) and bon(-/-);sur(-/-) embryos exhibit identical morphological and gene expression defects, suggesting, in part, that bon, sqt and sur (foxh1) play overlapping roles in neural patterning. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a complex genetic network in which bon functions both downstream of, and possibly in parallel to, Nodal signaling to regulate neural patterning via the modulation of mesendodermal gene expression.