ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-980903-4
Zebrafish segmentation and pair-rule patterning
van Eeden, F.J.M., Holley, S.A., Haffter, P., and Nüsslein-Volhard, C.
Segmentation in the vertebrate embryo is evident within the paraxial mesoderm in the form of somites, which are repeated structures that give rise to the vertebrae and muscle of the trunk and tail. In the zebrafish, our genetic screen identified two groups of mutants that affect somite formation and pattern. Mutations of one class, the fss-type mutants, disrupt the formation of the anterior-posterior somite boundaries during somitogenesis. However, segmentation within the paraxial mesoderm is not completely eliminated in these mutants. Irregular somite boundaries form later during embryogenesis and, strikingly, the vertebrae are not fused. Here, we show that formation of the irregular somite boundaries in these mutants is dependent upon the activity of a second group of genes, the you-type genes, which include sonic you, the zebrafish homologue of the Drosophila segment polarity gene, sonic hedgehog. Further to characterize the defects caused by the fss-type mutations, we examined their effects on the expression of her1, a zebrafish homologue of the Drosophila pair-rule gene hairy. In wild-type embryos, her1 is expressed in a dynamic, repeating pattern, remarkably similar to that of its Drosophila and Tribolium counterparts, suggesting that a pair-rule mechanism also functions in the segmentation of the vertebrate paraxial mesoderm. We have found that the fss-type mutants have abnormal pair-rule patterning. Although a her1 mutant could not be identified, analysis of a double mutant that abolishes most her1 expression suggests that a her1 mutant may not display a pair-rule phenotype analogous to the hairy phenotype observed in Drosophila. Cumulatively, our data indicate that zebrafish homologues of both the Drosophila segment polarity genes and pair-rule genes are involved in segmenting the paraxial mesoderm. However, both the relationship between these two groups of genes within the genetic heirarchy governing segmentation and the precise roles that they play during segmentation likely differ significantly between the two organisms.