Bertrand, J.Y., Kim, A.D., Teng, S., and Traver, D. (2008) CD41+ cmyb+ precursors colonize the zebrafish pronephros by a novel migration route to initiate adult hematopoiesis. Development (Cambridge, England). 135(10):1853-1862.
Development of the vertebrate blood lineages is complex, with multiple waves of hematopoietic precursors arising in different embryonic locations. Monopotent, or primitive, precursors first give rise to embryonic macrophages or erythrocytes. Multipotent, or definitive, precursors are subsequently generated to produce the adult hematopoietic lineages. In both the zebrafish and the mouse, the first definitive precursors are committed erythromyeloid progenitors (EMPs) that lack lymphoid differentiation potential. We have previously shown that zebrafish EMPs arise in the posterior blood island independently from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). In this report, we demonstrate that a fourth wave of hematopoietic precursors arises slightly later in the zebrafish aorta/gonad/mesonephros (AGM) equivalent. We have identified and prospectively isolated these cells by CD41 (itga2b) and cmyb expression. Unlike EMPs, CD41(+) AGM cells colonize the thymus to generate rag2(+) T lymphocyte precursors. Timelapse imaging and lineage tracing analyses demonstrate that AGM-derived precursors use a previously undescribed migration pathway along the pronephric tubules to initiate adult hematopoiesis in the developing kidney, the teleostean equivalent of mammalian bone marrow. Finally, we have analyzed the gene expression profiles of EMPs and AGM precursors to better understand the molecular cues that pattern the first definitive hematopoietic cells in the embryo. Together, these studies suggest that expression of CD41 and cmyb marks nascent HSCs in the zebrafish AGM, and provide the means to further dissect HSC generation and function in the early vertebrate embryo.