Cranial neural crest cells form much of the facial skeleton, and abnormalities in their development lead to severe birth defects.
In a novel zebrafish protein trap screen, we identified an RNA-binding protein, Rbms3, that is transiently expressed in the
cytoplasm of condensing neural crest cells within the pharyngeal arches. Morphants for rbms3 displayed reduced proliferation of prechondrogenic crest and significantly altered expression for chondrogenic/osteogenic
lineage markers. This phenotype strongly resembles cartilage/crest defects observed in Tgf-βr2:Wnt1-Cre mutants, which suggests a possible link with TGF-β signaling. Consistent with this are the findings that: (a) Rbms3 stabilized
a reporter transcript with smad2 32 untranslated region, (b) RNA immunoprecipitation with full-length Rbms3 showed enrichment for smad2/3, and (c) pSmad2 levels were reduced in rbms3 morphants. Overall, these results suggest that Rbms3 posttranscriptionally regulates one of the major pathways that promotes
chondrogenesis, the transforming growth factor β receptor (TGF-βr) pathway.