The rich phenotypic diversity that characterizes the vertebrate skeleton results from evolutionary changes in regulation of genes that drive development. Although relatively little is known about the genes that underlie the skeletal variation among fish species, significant knowledge of genetics and development is available for zebrafish. Because developmental processes are highly conserved, this knowledge can be leveraged for understanding the evolution of skeletal diversity. We developed the Phenoscape Knowledgebase (KB; http://kb.phenoscape.org) to yield testable hypotheses of candidate genes involved in skeletal evolution. We developed a community anatomy ontology for fishes and ontology-based methods to represent complex free-text character descriptions of species in a computable format. With these tools, we populated the KB with comparative morphological data from the literature on over 2,500 teleost fishes (mainly Ostariophysi) resulting in over 500,000 taxon phenotype annotations. The KB integrates these data with similarly structured phenotype data from zebrafish genes (http://zfin.org). Using ontology-based reasoning, candidate genes can be inferred for the phenotypes that vary across taxa, thereby uniting genetic and phenotypic data to formulate evo-devo hypotheses. The morphological data in the KB can be browsed, sorted, and aggregated in ways that provide unprecedented possibilities for data mining and discovery.
The ultimate goal of studying model organisms is to translate what is learned into useful knowledge about normal human biology and disease to facilitate treatment and early screening for diseases. Recent advances in genomic technologies allow for rapid generation of models with a range of targeted genotypes as well as their characterization by high-throughput phenotyping. As an abundance of phenotype data become available, only systematic analysis will facilitate valid conclusions to be drawn from these data and transferred to human diseases. Owing to the volume of data, automated methods are preferable, allowing for a reliable analysis of the data and providing evidence about possible gene–disease associations.
Here, we propose Phenotype comparisons for DIsease Genes and Models (PhenoDigm), as an automated method to provide evidence about gene–disease associations by analysing phenotype information. PhenoDigm integrates data from a variety of model organisms and, at the same time, uses several intermediate scoring methods to identify only strongly data-supported gene candidates for human genetic diseases. We show results of an automated evaluation as well as selected manually assessed examples that support the validity of PhenoDigm. Furthermore, we provide guidance on how to browse the data with PhenoDigm’s web interface and illustrate its usefulness in supporting research.
Model organisms are widely used for understanding basic biology, and have significantly contributed to the study of human disease. In recent years, genomic analysis has provided extensive evidence of widespread conservation of gene sequence and function amongst eukaryotes, allowing insights from model organisms to help decipher gene function in a wider range of species. The InterMOD consortium is developing an infrastructure based around the InterMine data warehouse system to integrate genomic and functional data from a number of key model organisms, leading the way to improved cross-species research. So far including budding yeast, nematode worm, fruit fly, zebrafish, rat and mouse, the project has set up data warehouses, synchronized data models, and created analysis tools and links between data from different species. The project unites a number of major model organism databases, improving both the consistency and accessibility of comparative research, to the benefit of the wider scientific community.
Mouse phenotype data represents a valuable resource for the identification of disease-associated genes, especially where the molecular basis is unknown and there is no clue to the candidate gene’s function, pathway involvement or expression pattern. However, until recently these data have not been systematically used due to difficulties in mapping between clinical features observed in humans and mouse phenotype annotations. Here, we describe a semantic approach to solve this problem and demonstrate highly significant recall of known disease-gene associations and orthology relationships. A web application (MouseFinder; www.mousemodels.org) has been developed to allow users to search the results of our whole-phenome comparison of human and mouse. We demonstrate its use in identifying ARTN as a strong candidate gene within the 1p34.1-p32 mapped locus for a hereditary form of ptosis.
phenotype; candidate disease genes; model organism; mouse
Numerous disease syndromes are associated with regions of copy number variation (CNV) in the human genome and, in most cases, the pathogenicity of the CNV is thought to be related to altered dosage of the genes contained within the affected segment. However, establishing the contribution of individual genes to the overall pathogenicity of CNV syndromes is difficult and often relies on the identification of potential candidates through manual searches of the literature and online resources. We describe here the development of a computational framework to comprehensively search phenotypic information from model organisms and single-gene human hereditary disorders, and thus speed the interpretation of the complex phenotypes of CNV disorders. There are currently more than 5000 human genes about which nothing is known phenotypically but for which detailed phenotypic information for the mouse and/or zebrafish orthologs is available. Here, we present an ontology-based approach to identify similarities between human disease manifestations and the mutational phenotypes in characterized model organism genes; this approach can therefore be used even in cases where there is little or no information about the function of the human genes. We applied this algorithm to detect candidate genes for 27 recurrent CNV disorders and identified 802 gene-phenotype associations, approximately half of which involved genes that were previously reported to be associated with individual phenotypic features and half of which were novel candidates. A total of 431 associations were made solely on the basis of model organism phenotype data. Additionally, we observed a striking, statistically significant tendency for individual disease phenotypes to be associated with multiple genes located within a single CNV region, a phenomenon that we denote as pheno-clustering. Many of the clusters also display statistically significant similarities in protein function or vicinity within the protein-protein interaction network. Our results provide a basis for understanding previously un-interpretable genotype-phenotype correlations in pathogenic CNVs and for mobilizing the large amount of model organism phenotype data to provide insights into human genetic disorders.
Phenotype analyses, e.g. investigating metabolic processes, tissue formation, or organism behavior, are an important element of most biological and medical research activities. Biomedical researchers are making increased use of ontological standards and methods to capture the results of such analyses, with one focus being the comparison and analysis of phenotype information between species.
We have generated a cross-species phenotype ontology for human, mouse and zebra fish that contains zebrafish phenotypes. We also provide up-to-date annotation data connecting human genes to phenotype classes from the generated ontology. We have included the data generation pipeline into our continuous integration system ensuring stable and up-to-date releases.
This article describes the data generation process and is intended to help interested researchers access both the phenotype annotation data and the associated cross-species phenotype ontology. The resource described here can be used in sophisticated semantic similarity and gene set enrichment analyses for phenotype data across species. The stable releases of this resource can be obtained from
The skeleton is of fundamental importance in research in comparative vertebrate morphology, paleontology, biomechanics, developmental biology, and systematics. Motivated by research questions that require computational access to and comparative reasoning across the diverse skeletal phenotypes of vertebrates, we developed a module of anatomical concepts for the skeletal system, the Vertebrate Skeletal Anatomy Ontology (VSAO), to accommodate and unify the existing skeletal terminologies for the species-specific (mouse, the frog Xenopus, zebrafish) and multispecies (teleost, amphibian) vertebrate anatomy ontologies. Previous differences between these terminologies prevented even simple queries across databases pertaining to vertebrate morphology. This module of upper-level and specific skeletal terms currently includes 223 defined terms and 179 synonyms that integrate skeletal cells, tissues, biological processes, organs (skeletal elements such as bones and cartilages), and subdivisions of the skeletal system. The VSAO is designed to integrate with other ontologies, including the Common Anatomy Reference Ontology (CARO), Gene Ontology (GO), Uberon, and Cell Ontology (CL), and it is freely available to the community to be updated with additional terms required for research. Its structure accommodates anatomical variation among vertebrate species in development, structure, and composition. Annotation of diverse vertebrate phenotypes with this ontology will enable novel inquiries across the full spectrum of phenotypic diversity.
ZFIN, the Zebrafish Model Organism Database (http://zfin.org), is the central resource for zebrafish genetic, genomic, phenotypic and developmental data. ZFIN curators manually curate and integrate comprehensive data involving zebrafish genes, mutants, transgenics, phenotypes, genotypes, gene expressions, morpholinos, antibodies, anatomical structures and publications. Integrated views of these data, as well as data gathered through collaborations and data exchanges, are provided through a wide selection of web-based search forms. Among the vertebrate model organisms, zebrafish are uniquely well suited for rapid and targeted generation of mutant lines. The recent rapid production of mutants and transgenic zebrafish is making management of data associated with these resources particularly important to the research community. Here, we describe recent enhancements to ZFIN aimed at improving our support for mutant and transgenic lines, including (i) enhanced mutant/transgenic search functionality; (ii) more expressive phenotype curation methods; (iii) new downloads files and archival data access; (iv) incorporation of new data loads from laboratories undertaking large-scale generation of mutant or transgenic lines and (v) new GBrowse tracks for transgenic insertions, genes with antibodies and morpholinos.
The guidance receptor DCC (deleted in colorectal cancer) ortholog UNC-40 regulates neuronal asymmetry development in Caenorhabditis elegans, but it is not known whether DCC plays a role in the specification of neuronal polarity in vertebrates. To examine the roles of DCC in neuronal asymmetry regulation in vertebrates, we studied zebrafish anterior dorsal telencephalon (ADt) neuronal axons. We generated transgenic zebrafish animals expressing the photo-convertible fluorescent protein Kaede in ADt neurons and then photo-converted Kaede to label specifically the ADt neuron axons. We found that ADt axons normally project ventrally. Knock down of Dcc function by injecting antisense morpholino oligonucleotides caused the ADt neurons to project axons dorsally. To examine the axon projection pattern of individual ADt neurons, we labeled single ADt neurons using a forebrain-specific promoter to drive fluorescent protein expression. We found that individual ADt neurons projected axons dorsally or formed multiple processes after morpholino knock down of Dcc function. We further found that knock down of the Dcc ligand, Netrin1, also caused ADt neurons to project axons dorsally. Knockdown of Neogenin1, a guidance receptor closely related to Dcc, enhanced the formation of aberrant dorsal axons in embryos injected with Dcc morpholino. These experiments provide the first evidence that Dcc regulates polarized axon initiation and asymmetric outgrowth of forebrain neurons in vertebrates.
Usher syndrome is the most prevalent cause of hereditary deaf-blindness, characterized by congenital sensorineural hearing impairment and progressive photoreceptor degeneration beginning in childhood or adolescence. Diagnosis and management of this disease are complex, and the molecular changes underlying sensory cell impairment remain poorly understood. Here we characterize two zebrafish models for a severe form of Usher syndrome, Usher syndrome type 1C (USH1C): one model is a mutant with a newly identified ush1c nonsense mutation, and the other is a morpholino knockdown of ush1c. Both have defects in hearing, balance and visual function from the first week of life. Histological analyses reveal specific defects in sensory cell structure that are consistent with these behavioral phenotypes and could implicate Müller glia in the retinal pathology of Usher syndrome. This study shows that visual defects associated with loss of ush1c function in zebrafish can be detected from the onset of vision, and thus could be applicable to early diagnosis for USH1C patients.
The vertebrate pituitary gland is a key endocrine control organ that contains six distinct hormone secreting cell types. In this study, we analyzed the role of direct cell-to-cell Delta-Notch signaling in zebrafish anterior pituitary cell type specification. We demonstrate that initial formation of the anterior pituitary placode is independent of Notch signaling. Later however, loss of Notch signaling in mind bomb (mib) mutant embryos or by DAPT treatment leads to increased numbers of lactotropes and loss of corticotropes in the anterior pars distalis (APD), increased number of thyrotropes and loss of somatotrope cell types in the posterior pars distalis (PPD), and fewer melanotropes in the posterior region of the adenohypophysis, the pars intermedia (PI). Conversely, Notch gain of function leads to the opposite result, loss of lactotrope and thyrotrope cell specification, and an increased number of corticotropes, melanotropes, and gonadotropes in the pituitary. Our results suggest that Notch acts on placodal cells, presumably as a permissive signal, to regulate progenitor cell specification to hormone secreting cell types. We propose that Notch mediated lateral inhibition regulates the relative numbers of specified hormone cell types in the three pituitary subdomains.
adenohypophysis; cell differentiation; cranial; DAPT; Delta; hormone; Notch; organogenesis; patterning; placode
We report the expression pattern and construction of a transgenic zebrafish line for a transcription factor involved in otic vesicle formation and skeletogenesis. The zinc finger transcription factor sp7 (formerly called osterix) is reported as a marker of osteoblasts. Using bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-mediated transgenesis, we generated a zebrafish transgenic line for studying skeletal development, Tg(sp7:EGFP)b1212. Using a zebrafish BAC, EGFP was introduced downstream of the regulatory regions of sp7 and injected into 1 cell-stage embryos. In this transgenic line, GFP expression reproduces endogenous sp7 gene expression in the otic placode and vesicle, and in forming skeletal structures. GFP-positive cells were also detected in adult fish, and were found associated with regenerating fin rays post-amputation. This line provides an essential tool for the further study of zebrafish otic vesicle formation and the development and regeneration of the skeleton.
bone; Danio rerio; gene transfer techniques; otic vesicle; regeneration; sp7
emx3 is first expressed in prospective telencephalic cells at the anterior border of the zebrafish neural plate. Knockdown of Emx3 function by morpholino reduces the expression of markers specific to dorsal telencephalon, and impairs axon tract formation. Rescue of both early and late markers requires low-level expression of emx3 at the one- or two-somite stage. Higher emx3 expression levels cause dorsal telencephalic markers to expand ventrally, which points to a possible role of emx3 in specifying dorsal telencephalon and a potential new function for Wnt/beta-catenin pathway activation. In contrast to mice, where Emx2 plays a major role in dorsal telencephalic development, knockdown of zebrafish Emx2 apparently does not affect telencephalic development. Similarly, Emx1 knockdown has little effect. Previously, emx3 was thought to be fish-specific. However, we found all three emx orthologs in Xenopus tropicalis and opossum (Monodelphis domestica) genomes, indicating that emx3 was present in an ancestral tetrapod genome.
Danio rerio; cell specification; empty spiracles; forebrain; pallium; homeobox; patterning; prosencephalon; transcription factor
ZFIN, the Zebrafish Model Organism Database, http://zfin.org, serves as the central repository and web-based resource for zebrafish genetic, genomic, phenotypic and developmental data. ZFIN manually curates comprehensive data for zebrafish genes, phenotypes, genotypes, gene expression, antibodies, anatomical structures and publications. A wide-ranging collection of web-based search forms and tools facilitates access to integrated views of these data promoting analysis and scientific discovery. Data represented in ZFIN are derived from three primary sources: curation of zebrafish publications, individual research laboratories and collaborations with bioinformatics organizations. Data formats include text, images and graphical representations. ZFIN is a dynamic resource with data added daily as part of our ongoing curation process. Software updates are frequent. Here, we describe recent additions to ZFIN including (i) enhanced access to images, (ii) genomic features, (iii) genome browser, (iv) transcripts, (v) antibodies and (vi) a community wiki for protocols and antibodies.
The wealth of phenotypic descriptions documented in the published articles, monographs, and dissertations of phylogenetic systematics is traditionally reported in a free-text format, and it is therefore largely inaccessible for linkage to biological databases for genetics, development, and phenotypes, and difficult to manage for large-scale integrative work. The Phenoscape project aims to represent these complex and detailed descriptions with rich and formal semantics that are amenable to computation and integration with phenotype data from other fields of biology. This entails reconceptualizing the traditional free-text characters into the computable Entity-Quality (EQ) formalism using ontologies.
We used ontologies and the EQ formalism to curate a collection of 47 phylogenetic studies on ostariophysan fishes (including catfishes, characins, minnows, knifefishes) and their relatives with the goal of integrating these complex phenotype descriptions with information from an existing model organism database (zebrafish, http://zfin.org). We developed a curation workflow for the collection of character, taxonomic and specimen data from these publications. A total of 4,617 phenotypic characters (10,512 states) for 3,449 taxa, primarily species, were curated into EQ formalism (for a total of 12,861 EQ statements) using anatomical and taxonomic terms from teleost-specific ontologies (Teleost Anatomy Ontology and Teleost Taxonomy Ontology) in combination with terms from a quality ontology (Phenotype and Trait Ontology). Standards and guidelines for consistently and accurately representing phenotypes were developed in response to the challenges that were evident from two annotation experiments and from feedback from curators.
The challenges we encountered and many of the curation standards and methods for improving consistency that we developed are generally applicable to any effort to represent phenotypes using ontologies. This is because an ontological representation of the detailed variations in phenotype, whether between mutant or wildtype, among individual humans, or across the diversity of species, requires a process by which a precise combination of terms from domain ontologies are selected and organized according to logical relations. The efficiencies that we have developed in this process will be useful for any attempt to annotate complex phenotypic descriptions using ontologies. We also discuss some ramifications of EQ representation for the domain of systematics.
Phenotypic differences among species have long been systematically itemized and described by biologists in the process of investigating phylogenetic relationships and trait evolution. Traditionally, these descriptions have been expressed in natural language within the context of individual journal publications or monographs. As such, this rich store of phenotype data has been largely unavailable for statistical and computational comparisons across studies or integration with other biological knowledge.
Here we describe Phenex, a platform-independent desktop application designed to facilitate efficient and consistent annotation of phenotypic similarities and differences using Entity-Quality syntax, drawing on terms from community ontologies for anatomical entities, phenotypic qualities, and taxonomic names. Phenex can be configured to load only those ontologies pertinent to a taxonomic group of interest. The graphical user interface was optimized for evolutionary biologists accustomed to working with lists of taxa, characters, character states, and character-by-taxon matrices.
Annotation of phenotypic data using ontologies and globally unique taxonomic identifiers will allow biologists to integrate phenotypic data from different organisms and studies, leveraging decades of work in systematics and comparative morphology.
Usher syndrome is a genetically heterogeneous recessive disease characterized by hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa (RP). It frequently presents with unexplained, often intrafamilial, variability of the visual phenotype. Although 9 genes have been linked with Usher syndrome, many patients do not have mutations in any of these genes, suggesting that there are still unidentified genes involved in the syndrome. Here, we have determined that mutations in PDZ domain–containing 7 (PDZD7), which encodes a homolog of proteins mutated in Usher syndrome subtype 1C (USH1C) and USH2D, contribute to Usher syndrome. Mutations in PDZD7 were identified only in patients with mutations in other known Usher genes. In a set of sisters, each with a homozygous mutation in USH2A, a frame-shift mutation in PDZD7 was present in the sister with more severe RP and earlier disease onset. Further, heterozygous PDZD7 mutations were present in patients with truncating mutations in USH2A, G protein–coupled receptor 98 (GPR98; also known as USH2C), and an unidentified locus. We validated the human genotypes using zebrafish, and our findings were consistent with digenic inheritance of PDZD7 and GPR98, and with PDZD7 as a retinal disease modifier in patients with USH2A. Pdzd7 knockdown produced an Usher-like phenotype in zebrafish, exacerbated retinal cell death in combination with ush2a or gpr98, and reduced Gpr98 localization in the region of the photoreceptor connecting cilium. Our data challenge the view of Usher syndrome as a traditional Mendelian disorder and support the reclassification of Usher syndrome as an oligogenic disease.
The vertebrate hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HP) is the main link between the central nervous system and endocrine system. Although several signal pathways and regulatory genes have been implicated in adenohypophysis ontogenesis, little is known about hypothalamic and neurohypophysial development or when the HP matures and becomes functional. To identify markers of the HP, we constructed subtractive cDNA libraries between adult zebrafish hypothalamus and pituitary. We identified previously published genes and ESTs and novel zebrafish genes, some of which were predicted by genomic database analysis. We also analyzed expression patterns of these genes and found that several are expressed in the embryonic and larval hypothalamus, neurohypophysis, and/or adenohypophysis. Expression at these stages makes these genes useful markers to study HP maturation and function.
Adenohypophysis; cell differentiation; hormone; hypothalamic-pituitary axis; hypothalamus; neurohypophysis; organ maturation; pituitary; subtractive cDNA library
The rich knowledge of morphological variation among organisms reported in the systematic literature has remained in free-text format, impractical for use in large-scale synthetic phylogenetic work. This noncomputable format has also precluded linkage to the large knowledgebase of genomic, genetic, developmental, and phenotype data in model organism databases. We have undertaken an effort to prototype a curated, ontology-based evolutionary morphology database that maps to these genetic databases (http://kb.phenoscape.org) to facilitate investigation into the mechanistic basis and evolution of phenotypic diversity. Among the first requirements in establishing this database was the development of a multispecies anatomy ontology with the goal of capturing anatomical data in a systematic and computable manner. An ontology is a formal representation of a set of concepts with defined relationships between those concepts. Multispecies anatomy ontologies in particular are an efficient way to represent the diversity of morphological structures in a clade of organisms, but they present challenges in their development relative to single-species anatomy ontologies. Here, we describe the Teleost Anatomy Ontology (TAO), a multispecies anatomy ontology for teleost fishes derived from the Zebrafish Anatomical Ontology (ZFA) for the purpose of annotating varying morphological features across species. To facilitate interoperability with other anatomy ontologies, TAO uses the Common Anatomy Reference Ontology as a template for its upper level nodes, and TAO and ZFA are synchronized, with zebrafish terms specified as subtypes of teleost terms. We found that the details of ontology architecture have ramifications for querying, and we present general challenges in developing a multispecies anatomy ontology, including refinement of definitions, taxon-specific relationships among terms, and representation of taxonomically variable developmental pathways.
Bioinformatics; devo-evo; fish; morphology; ontology; Teleostei
A novel method for quantifying the similarity between phenotypes by the use of ontologies can be used to search for candidate genes, pathway members, and human disease models on the basis of phenotypes alone.
Scientists and clinicians who study genetic alterations and disease have traditionally described phenotypes in natural language. The considerable variation in these free-text descriptions has posed a hindrance to the important task of identifying candidate genes and models for human diseases and indicates the need for a computationally tractable method to mine data resources for mutant phenotypes. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that ontological annotation of disease phenotypes will facilitate the discovery of new genotype-phenotype relationships within and across species. To describe phenotypes using ontologies, we used an Entity-Quality (EQ) methodology, wherein the affected entity (E) and how it is affected (Q) are recorded using terms from a variety of ontologies. Using this EQ method, we annotated the phenotypes of 11 gene-linked human diseases described in Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM). These human annotations were loaded into our Ontology-Based Database (OBD) along with other ontology-based phenotype descriptions of mutants from various model organism databases. Phenotypes recorded with this EQ method can be computationally compared based on the hierarchy of terms in the ontologies and the frequency of annotation. We utilized four similarity metrics to compare phenotypes and developed an ontology of homologous and analogous anatomical structures to compare phenotypes between species. Using these tools, we demonstrate that we can identify, through the similarity of the recorded phenotypes, other alleles of the same gene, other members of a signaling pathway, and orthologous genes and pathway members across species. We conclude that EQ-based annotation of phenotypes, in conjunction with a cross-species ontology, and a variety of similarity metrics can identify biologically meaningful similarities between genes by comparing phenotypes alone. This annotation and search method provides a novel and efficient means to identify gene candidates and animal models of human disease, which may shorten the lengthy path to identification and understanding of the genetic basis of human disease.
Model organisms such as fruit flies, mice, and zebrafish are useful for investigating gene function because they are easy to grow, dissect, and genetically manipulate in the laboratory. By examining mutations in these organisms, one can identify candidate genes that cause disease in humans, and develop models to better understand human disease and gene function. A fundamental roadblock for analysis is, however, the lack of a computational method for describing and comparing phenotypes of mutant animals and of human diseases when the genetic basis is unknown. We describe here a novel method using ontologies to record and quantify the similarity between phenotypes. We tested our method by using the annotated mutant phenotype of one member of the Hedgehog signaling pathway in zebrafish to identify other pathway members with similar recorded phenotypes. We also compared human disease phenotypes to those produced by mutation in model organisms, and show that orthologous and biologically relevant genes can be identified by this method. Given that the genetic basis of human disease is often unknown, this method provides a means for identifying candidate genes, pathway members, and disease models by computationally identifying similar phenotypes within and across species.
In recent decades, laboratories throughout the world generated several thousand mutant, transgenic, and wild-type zebrafish lines and more lines continue to be produced. At the same time, relatively little effort has been expended to develop reliable, high-throughput, standardized, long-term cryopreservation storage methods, even though laboratories and the research community as a whole struggle to maintain the large number of lines alive. Safe and reliable methods for maintaining these valuable genetic resources are vital for future biomedical research.
Cryopreservation is the most efficient method for large-scale, long-term storage of important genetic materials. It extends the time offspring can be produced from individual fish, reduces the need to maintain live populations, and can prevent catastrophic loss of irreplaceable research lines. Cryopreservation is also the most cost-effective alternative for maintaining genetic resources because it reduces costs for animal and facility maintenance, personnel, and space. In addition, it provides novel opportunities to develop new types of research using large numbers of lines. For example, several genetic strategies, such as TILLING or enhancer and gene trapping, depend on the use of cryopreservation to bypass generations of live organisms until a strain is revived for research.
In this chapter, we describe and discuss the current cryopreservation method used at the Zebrafish International Resource Center. This method is derived from the initial protocol developed for zebrafish over 20 years ago that has recently been refined (1).
Danio rerio; cryoprotectant; germplasm; liquid nitrogen repository; sperm; sperm library; in-vitro fertilization
Sparc (Osteonectin), a matricellular glycoprotein expressed by many differentiated cells, is a major non-collagenous constituent of vertebrate bones. Recent studies indicate that Sparc expression appears early in development, although its function and regulation during embryogenesis are largely unknown. We cloned zebrafish sparc and investigated its role during development, using a morpholino antisense oligonucleotide-based knockdown approach. Consistent with its strong expression in the otic vesicle and developing pharyngeal cartilages, knockdown of Sparc function resulted in specific inner ear and cartilage defects that are highlighted by changes in gene expression, morphology and behavior. We rescued the knockdown phenotypes by co-injecting sparc mRNA, providing evidence that the knockdown phenotype is due specifically to impairment of Sparc function. A comparison of the phenotypes of Sparc knockdown and known zebrafish mutants with similar defects places Sparc downstream of sox9 in the genetic network that regulates development of the pharyngeal skeleton and inner ear of vertebrates.
cartilage; Col2a1a; Osteonectin; otic vesicle; Otx1; Sox9; Sparc
Skeletal muscle differentiation requires assembly of contractile proteins into organized myofibrils. The Drosophila ladybird homeobox gene (lad) functions in founder cells of the segmental border muscle to promote myoblast fusion and muscle shaping. Tetrapods have two homologous genes (Lbx). Lbx1 functions in migration and/or proliferation of hypaxial myoblasts, whereas the function of Lbx2 is poorly understood.
To elucidate the role of Lbx in vertebrate myogenesis, we examined Lbx function in zebrafish. Zebrafish lbx2 transcripts appear in newly formed paraxial mesoderm and become restricted to adaxial cells, precursors of slow muscle. Slow muscles lose lbx2 expression as they differentiate, while a subset of differentiating fast muscle cells transiently expresses lbx2. Fin and hyoid muscle express lbx2 later. In contrast, lbx1b expression first appears lateral to the somites at late segmentation stages and is later restricted to fin muscle. Morpholino knockdown of Lbx1b and Lbx2 suppresses hypaxial muscle development. Moreover, knockdown of Lbx2 results in malformation of muscle fibers and reduced fusion of fast precursors, although no obvious effects on induction or specification are observed. Expression of myofilament genes, including actin and myosin, requires the engrailed repressor domain of Lbx2.
Our results elucidate a new function of Lbx2 as a regulator of myofibril formation.