Bader, H.L., Keene, D.R., Charvet, B., Veit, G., Driever, W., Koch, M., and Ruggiero, F. (2009) Zebrafish collagen XII is present in embryonic connective tissue sheaths (fascia) and basement membranes. Matrix biology : journal of the International Society for Matrix Biology. 28(1):32-43.
Connective tissues ensure the cohesion of the tissues of the body, but also form specialized structures such as tendon and bone. Collagen XII may enhance the stability of connective tissues by bridging collagen fibrils, but its function is still unclear. Here, we used the zebrafish model to visualize its expression pattern in the whole organism. The zebrafish col12a1 gene is homologous to the small isoform of the tetrapod col12a1 gene. In agreement with the biochemical data reported for the small isoform, the zebrafish collagen XII alpha1 chain was characterized as a collagenase sensitive band migrating at ~200 kDa. Using newly generated polyclonal antibodies and anti-sense probes, we performed a comprehensive analysis of its expression in developing zebrafish. Collagen XII exhibited a much broader expression pattern than previously thought: it was ubiquitously expressed in the connective tissue sheaths (fascia) that encase the tissues and organs of the body. For example, it was found in sclera, meninges, epimysia and horizontal and vertical myosepta. Collagen XII was also detected in head mesenchyme, pharyngeal arches and within the spinal cord, where it was first expressed within and then at the lateral borders of the floor plate and at the dorsal midline. Furthermore, double immunofluorescence staining with laminin and immunogold electron microscopy revealed that collagen XII is associated with basement membranes. These data suggest that collagen XII is implicated in tissue cohesion by stabilizing fascia and by linking fascia to basement membranes.