Neuronal migration and growth cone motility are essential aspects of the development and maturation of the nervous system. These cellular events result from dynamic changes in the organization and function of the cytoskeleton, in part due to the activity of cytoskeletal motor proteins such as myosins. Although specific myosins such as Myo2 (conventional or muscle myosin), Myo1, and Myo5 have been well characterized for roles in cell motility, the roles of the majority of unconventional (other than Myo2) myosins in cell motility events have not been investigated. To address this issue, we have undertaken an analysis of unconventional myosins in zebrafish, a premier model for studying cellular and growth cone motility in the vertebrate nervous system. We describe the characterization and expression patterns of several members of the unconventional myosin gene family. Based on available genomic sequence data, we identified 18 unconventional myosin- and 4 Myo2-related genes in the zebrafish genome in addition to previously characterized myosin (-1, -2, -3, -5, -6, -7) genes. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that these genes can be grouped into existing classifications for unconventional myosins from mouse and man. In situ hybridization analyses using EST probes for 18 of the 22 identified genes indicate that 11/18 genes are expressed in a restricted fashion in the zebrafish embryo. Specific myosins are expressed in particular neuronal or neuroepithelial cell types in the developing zebrafish nervous system, spanning the periods of neuronal differentiation and migration, and of growth cone guidance and motility.
Keywords: cytoskeleton, unconventional myosin, neuronal migration, axon guidance, growth cone motility, zebrafish, commissure, spinal cord, motor neuron, neural crest, somite, ear, eye, morphogenesis, in situ hybridization, phylogenetic tree, hindbrain, forebrain, midbrain, cranial muscles