Aldh1 expression is known to mark candidate progenitor populations in adult and embryonic mouse pancreas, and Aldh1 enzymatic activity has been identified as a potent regulator of pancreatic endocrine differentiation in zebrafish. However, the location and identity of Aldh1-expressing cells in zebrafish pancreas remain unknown. In this study we demonstrate that Aldh1-expressing cells are located immediately adjacent to 2F11-positive pancreatic ductal epithelial cells, and that their abundance dramatically increases during zebrafish secondary islet formation. These cells also express neurod, a marker of endocrine progenitor cells, but do not express markers of more mature endocrine cells such as pax6b or insulin. Using formal cre/lox-based lineage tracing, we further show that Aldh1-expressing pancreatic epithelial cells are the direct progeny of pancreatic notch-responsive progenitor cells, identifying them as a critical intermediate between multi-lineage progenitors and mature endocrine cells. Pharmacologic manipulation of Aldh1 enzymatic activity accelerates cell entry into the Aldh1-expressing endocrine progenitor pool, and also leads to the premature maturation of these cells, as evidenced by accelerated pax6b expression. Together, these findings suggest that Aldh1-expressing cells act as both participants and regulators of endocrine differentiation during zebrafish secondary islet formation.
Complete spinal transection in the mature nervous system is typically followed by minimal axonal repair, extensive motor paralysis and loss of sensory functions caudal to the injury. In contrast, the immature nervous system has greater capacity for repair, a phenomenon sometimes called the infant lesion effect. This study investigates spinal injuries early in development using the marsupial opossum Monodelphis domestica whose young are born very immature, allowing access to developmental stages only accessible in utero in eutherian mammals. Spinal cords of Monodelphis pups were completely transected in the lower thoracic region, T10, on postnatal-day (P)7 or P28 and the animals grew to adulthood. In P7-injured animals regrown supraspinal and propriospinal axons through the injury site were demonstrated using retrograde axonal labelling. These animals recovered near-normal coordinated overground locomotion, but with altered gait characteristics including foot placement phase lags. In P28-injured animals no axonal regrowth through the injury site could be demonstrated yet they were able to perform weight-supporting hindlimb stepping overground and on the treadmill. When placed in an environment of reduced sensory feedback (swimming) P7-injured animals swam using their hindlimbs, suggesting that the axons that grew across the lesion made functional connections; P28-injured animals swam using their forelimbs only, suggesting that their overground hindlimb movements were reflex-dependent and thus likely to be generated locally in the lumbar spinal cord. Modifications to propriospinal circuitry in P7- and P28-injured opossums were demonstrated by changes in the number of fluorescently labelled neurons detected in the lumbar cord following tracer studies and changes in the balance of excitatory, inhibitory and neuromodulatory neurotransmitter receptors’ gene expression shown by qRT-PCR. These results are discussed in the context of studies indicating that although following injury the isolated segment of the spinal cord retains some capability of rhythmic movement the mechanisms involved in weight-bearing locomotion are distinct.
Thorny catfishes exhibit large variations in swim bladder morphology. These organs are of different sizes, forms and may have simple or branched diverticula. The swim bladder plays an important role in otophysans because it enhances their hearing sensitivity by transmitting sound pressure fluctuations via ossicles to the inner ear.
To investigate if a form-function relationship exists, the swim bladder morphology and hearing ability were analyzed in six species. The morphology was quantified by measuring the length, width and height and calculating a standardized swim bladder length (sSBL), which was then used to calculate the relative swim bladder length (rSBL). Hearing was measured using the auditory evoked potential (AEP) recording technique. Two species had simple apple-shaped and four species heart-shaped (cordiform) bladders. One of the latter species had short unbranched diverticula on the terminal margin, two had a secondary bladder and two had many long, branched diverticula. The rSBL differed significantly between most of the species. All species were able to detect frequencies between 70 Hz and 6 kHz, with lowest thresholds found between 0.5 and 1 kHz (60 dB re 1 µPa). Hearing curves were U-shaped except in Hemidoras morrisi in which it was ramp-like. Mean hearing thresholds of species possessing smaller rSBLs were slightly lower (maximum 8.5 dB) than those of species having larger rSBLs.
The current findings reveal a relationship between swim bladder form and its function among thorny catfishes. Relatively smaller swim bladders resulted in relatively better hearing. This is in contrast to a prior inter-familial study on catfishes in which species with large unpaired bladders possessed higher sensitivity at higher frequencies than species having tiny paired and encapsulated bladders.
Over 120 loci are known to cause inherited hearing loss in humans. The deafness gene has been identified for only half of these loci. With the aim of identifying some of the remaining deafness genes, we performed an ethylnitrosourea mutagenesis screen for deaf mice. We isolated two mutants with semi-dominant hearing loss, Deaf11 and Deaf13. Both contained causative mutations in Atp2b2, which encodes the plasma membrane calcium ATPase 2. The Atp2b2Deaf11 mutation leads to a p. I1023S substitution in the tenth transmembrane domain. The Atp2b2Deaf13 mutation leads to a p. R561S substitution in the catalytic core. Mice homozygous for these mutations display profound hearing loss. Heterozygotes display mild to moderate, progressive hearing loss.
We identified three zebrafish mutants with defects in biliary development. One of these mutants, pekin (pn), also demonstrated generalized hypopigmentation and other defects, including disruption of retinal cell layers, lack of zymogen granules in the pancreas, and dilated Golgi in intestinal epithelial cells. Bile duct cells in pn demonstrated an accumulation of electron dense bodies. We determined that the causative defect in pn was a splice site mutation in the atp6ap2 gene that leads to an inframe stop codon. atp6ap2 encodes a subunit of the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-H+-ATPase), which modulates pH in intracellular compartments. The Atp6ap2 subunit has also been shown to function as an intracellular renin receptor that stimulates fibrogenesis. Here we show that mutants and morphants involving other V-H+-ATPase subunits also demonstrated developmental biliary defects, but did not demonstrate the inhibition of fibrogenic genes observed in pn. The defects in pn are reminiscent of those we and others have observed in class C VPS (vacuolar protein sorting) family mutants and morphants, and we report here that knockdown of atp6ap2 and vps33b had an additive negative effect on biliary development. Our findings suggest that pathways important in modulating intracompartmental pH lead to defects in digestive organ development, and support previous studies demonstrating the importance of intracellular sorting pathways in biliary development.
During waking behavior animals adapt their state of arousal in response to environmental pressures. Sensory processing is regulated in aroused states and several lines of evidence imply that this is mediated at least partly by the serotonergic system. However there is little information directly showing that serotonergic function is required for state-dependent modulation of sensory processing. Here we find that zebrafish larvae can maintain a short-term state of arousal during which neurons in the dorsal raphe modulate sensory responsiveness to behaviorally relevant visual cues. Following a brief exposure to water flow, larvae show elevated activity and heightened sensitivity to perceived motion. Calcium imaging of neuronal activity after flow revealed increased activity in serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe. Genetic ablation of these neurons abolished the increase in visual sensitivity during arousal without affecting baseline visual function or locomotor activity. We traced projections from the dorsal raphe to a major visual area, the optic tectum. Laser ablation of the tectum demonstrated that this structure, like the dorsal raphe, is required for improved visual sensitivity during arousal. These findings reveal that serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe have a state-dependent role in matching sensory responsiveness to behavioral context.
Autism and Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (AgCC) are interrelated behavioral and anatomic phenotypes whose genetic etiologies are incompletely understood. We used the BTBR T+
tf/J (BTBR) strain, exhibiting fully penetrant AgCC, a diminished hippocampal commissure, and abnormal behaviors that may have face validity to autism, to study the genetic basis of these disorders.
We generated 410 progeny from an F2 intercross between the BTBR and C57BL/6J strains. The progeny were phenotyped for social behaviors (as juveniles and adults) and commisural morphology, and genotyped using 458 markers. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified using genome scans; significant loci were fine-mapped, and the BTBR genome was sequenced and analyzed to identify candidate genes.
Six QTL meeting genome-wide significance for three autism-relevant behaviors in BTBR were identified on chromosomes 1, 3, 9, 10, 12, and X. Four novel QTL for commissural morphology on chromosomes 4, 6, and 12 were also identified. We identified a highly significant QTL (LOD score = 20.2) for callosal morphology on the distal end of chromosome 4.
We identified several QTL and candidate genes for both autism-relevant traits and commissural morphology in the BTBR mouse. Twenty-nine candidate genes were associated with synaptic activity, axon guidance, and neural development. This is consistent with a role for these processes in modulating white matter tract development and aspects of autism-relevant behaviors in the BTBR mouse. Our findings reveal candidate genes in a mouse model that will inform future human and preclinical studies of autism and AgCC.
Zebrafish have recently emerged as an attractive in vivo model for epilepsy. Seven-day-old zebrafish larvae exposed to the GABAA antagonist pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) exhibit increased locomotor activity, seizure-like behavior, and epileptiform electrographic activity. A previous study showed that 12 out of 13 antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) suppressed PTZ-mediated increases in larval movement, indicating the potential utility of zebrafish as a high-throughput in vivo model for AED discovery. However, a question remained as to whether an AED-induced decrease in locomotion is truly indicative of anticonvulsant activity, as some drugs may impair larval movement through other mechanisms such as general toxicity or sedation. We therefore carried out a study in PTZ-treated zebrafish larvae, to directly compare the ability of AEDs to inhibit seizure-like behavioral manifestations with their capacity to suppress epileptiform electrographic activity. We re-tested the 13 AEDs of which 12 were previously reported to inhibit convulsions in the larval movement tracking assay, administering concentrations that did not, on their own, impair locomotion. In parallel, we carried out open-field recordings on larval brains after treatment with each AED. For the majority of AEDs we obtained the same response in both the behavioral and electrographic assays. Overall our data correlate well with those reported in the literature for acute rodent PTZ tests, indicating that the larval zebrafish brain is more discriminatory than previously thought in its response to AEDs with different modes of action. Our results underscore the validity of using the zebrafish larval locomotor assay as a rapid first-pass screening tool in assessing the anticonvulsant and/or proconvulsant activity of compounds, but also highlight the importance of performing adequate validation when using in vivo models.
Non-visual photoreception in mammals is primarily mediated by two splice variants that derive from a single melanopsin (OPN4M) gene, whose expression is restricted to a subset of retinal ganglion cells. Physiologically, this sensory system regulates the photoentrainment of many biological rhythms, such as sleep via the melatonin endocrine system and pupil constriction. By contrast, melanopsin exists as two distinct lineages in non-mammals, opn4m and opn4x, and is broadly expressed in a wide range of tissue types, including the eye, brain, pineal gland and skin. Despite these findings, the evolution and function of melanopsin in early vertebrates are largely unknown. We, therefore, investigated the complement of opn4 classes present in the genome of a model deep-sea cartilaginous species, the elephant shark (Callorhinchus milii), as a representative vertebrate that resides at the base of the gnathostome (jawed vertebrate) lineage. We reveal that three melanopsin genes, opn4m1, opn4m2 and opn4x, are expressed in multiple tissues of the elephant shark. The two opn4m genes are likely to have arisen as a result of a lineage-specific duplication, whereas “long” and “short” splice variants are generated from a single opn4x gene. By using a heterologous expression system, we suggest that these genes encode functional photopigments that exhibit both “invertebrate-like” bistable and classical “vertebrate-like” monostable biochemical characteristics. We discuss the evolution and function of these melanopsin pigments within the context of the diverse photic and ecological environments inhabited by this chimaerid holocephalan, as well as the origin of non-visual sensory systems in early vertebrates.
The hepatic α-tocopherol transfer protein (TTP) is required for optimal α-tocopherol bioavailability in humans; mutations in the human TTPA gene result in the heritable disorder ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED, OMIM #277460). TTP is also expressed in mammalian uterine and placental cells and in the human embryonic yolk-sac, underscoring TTP’s significance during fetal development. TTP and vitamin E are essential for productive pregnancy in rodents, but their precise physiological role in embryogenesis is unknown. We hypothesize that TTP is required to regulate delivery of α-tocopherol to critical target sites in the developing embryo. We tested to find if TTP is essential for proper vertebrate development, utilizing the zebrafish as a non-placental model. We verify that TTP is expressed in the adult zebrafish and its amino acid sequence is homologous to the human ortholog. We show that embryonic transcription of TTP mRNA increases >7-fold during the first 24 hours following fertilization. In situ hybridization demonstrates that Ttpa transcripts are localized in the developing brain, eyes and tail bud at 1-day post fertilization. Inhibiting TTP expression using oligonucleotide morpholinos results in severe malformations of the head and eyes in nearly all morpholino-injected embryos (88% compared with 5.6% in those injected with control morpholinos or 1.7% in non-injected embryos). We conclude that TTP is essential for early development of the vertebrate central nervous system.
The African cichlid Oreochromis mossambicus (Mozambique tilapia) has been used as a model system in a wide range of behavioural and neurobiological studies. The increasing number of genetic tools available for this species, together with the emerging interest in its use for neurobiological studies, increased the need for an accurate hodological mapping of the tilapia brain to supplement the available histological data. The goal of our study was to elaborate a three-dimensional, high-resolution digital atlas using magnetic resonance imaging, supported by Nissl staining. Resulting images were viewed and analysed in all orientations (transverse, sagittal, and horizontal) and manually labelled to reveal structures in the olfactory bulb, telencephalon, diencephalon, optic tectum, and cerebellum. This high resolution tilapia brain atlas is expected to become a very useful tool for neuroscientists using this fish model and will certainly expand their use in future studies regarding the central nervous system.
Several teleost species have evolved anterior extensions of the swim bladder which come close to or directly contact the inner ears. A few comparative studies have shown that these morphological specializations may enhance hearing abilities. This study investigates the diversity of swim bladder morphology in four Asian and African cichlid species and analyzes how this diversity affects their hearing sensitivity.
We studied swim bladder morphology by dissections and by making 3D reconstructions from high-resolution microCT scans. The auditory sensitivity was determined in terms of sound pressure levels (SPL) and particle acceleration levels (PAL) using the auditory evoked potential (AEP) recording technique. The swim bladders in Hemichromis guttatus and Steatocranus tinanti lacked anterior extensions and the swim bladder was considerably small in the latter species. In contrast, Paratilapia polleni and especially Etroplus maculatus possessed anterior extensions bringing the swim bladder close to the inner ears. All species were able to detect frequencies up to 3 kHz (SPL) except S. tinanti which only responded to frequencies up to 0.7 kHz. P. polleni and E. maculatus showed significantly higher auditory sensitivities at 0.5 and 1 kHz than the two species lacking anterior swim bladder extensions. The highest auditory sensitivities were found in E. maculatus, which possessed the most intimate swim bladder-inner ear relationship (maximum sensitivity 66 dB re 1 µPa at 0.5 kHz).
Our results indicate that anterior swim bladder extensions seem to improve mean absolute auditory sensitivities by 21–42 dB (SPLs) and 21–36 dB (PALs) between 0.5 and 1 kHz. Besides anterior extensions, the size of the swim bladder appears to be an important factor for extending the detectable frequency range (up to 3 kHz).
navigation; phototaxis; orienting; behavioral choice; optic tectum; motor; control; zebrafish
In vertebrates, the myelin sheath is essential for efficient propagation of action potentials along the axon shaft. Oligodendrocytes are the cells of the central nervous system that create myelin sheaths. During embryogenesis, ventral neural tube precursors give rise to oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which divide and migrate throughout the central nervous system. This study aimed to investigate mechanisms that regulate oligodendrocyte progenitor cell formation.
By conducting a mutagenesis screen in transgenic zebrafish, we identified a mutation, designated vu166, by an apparent reduction in the number of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in the dorsal spinal cord. We subsequently determined that vu166 is an allele of pescadillo, a gene known to play a role in ribosome biogenesis and cell proliferation. We found that pescadillo function is required for both the proper number of oligodendrocyte progenitors to form, by regulating cell cycle progression, and for normal levels of myelin gene expression.
Our data provide evidence that neural precursors require pes function to progress through the cell cycle and produce oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and for oligodendrocyte differentiation.
Programmed cell death is widespread during the development of the central nervous system and serves multiple purposes including the establishment of neural connections. In the mouse retina a substantial reduction of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) occurs during the first postnatal week, coinciding with the formation of retinotopic maps in the superior colliculus (SC). We previously established a retino-collicular culture preparation which recapitulates the progressive topographic ordering of RGC projections during early post-natal life. Here, we questioned whether this model could also be suitable to examine the mechanisms underlying developmental cell death of RGCs. Brn3a was used as a marker of the RGCs. A developmental decline in the number of Brn3a-immunolabelled neurons was found in the retinal explant with a timing that paralleled that observed in vivo. In contrast, the density of photoreceptors or of starburst amacrine cells increased, mimicking the evolution of these cell populations in vivo. Blockade of neural activity with tetrodotoxin increased the number of surviving Brn3a-labelled neurons in the retinal explant, as did the increase in target availability when one retinal explant was confronted with 2 or 4 collicular slices. Thus, this ex vivo model reproduces the developmental reduction of RGCs and recapitulates its regulation by neural activity and target availability. It therefore offers a simple way to analyze developmental cell death in this classic system. Using this model, we show that ephrin-A signaling does not participate to the regulation of the Brn3a population size in the retina, indicating that eprhin-A-mediated elimination of exuberant projections does not involve developmental cell death.
Transgenic technologies enable the manipulation and observation of circuits controlling behavior by permitting expression of genetically encoded reporter genes in neurons. Frequently though, neuronal expression is accompanied by transgene expression in non-neuronal tissues, which may preclude key experimental manipulations, including assessment of the contribution of neurons to behavior by ablation. To better restrict transgene expression to the nervous system in zebrafish larvae, we have used DNA sequences derived from the neuron-restrictive silencing element (NRSE). We find that one such sequence, REx2, when used in conjunction with several basal promoters, robustly suppresses transgene expression in non-neuronal tissues. Both in transient transgenic experiments and in stable enhancer trap lines, suppression is achieved without compromising expression within the nervous system. Furthermore, in REx2 enhancer trap lines non-neuronal expression can be de-repressed by knocking down expression of the NRSE binding protein RE1-silencing transcription factor (Rest). In one line, we show that the resulting pattern of reporter gene expression coincides with that of the adjacent endogenous gene, hapln3. We demonstrate that three common basal promoters are susceptible to the effects of the REx2 element, suggesting that this method may be useful for confining expression from many other promoters to the nervous system. This technique enables neural specific targeting of reporter genes and thus will facilitate the use of transgenic methods to manipulate circuit function in freely behaving larvae.
transgenesis; enhancer trap; ablation; NRSE; rest; zebrafish
Angelman syndrome (AS), a genetic disorder occurring in approximately one in every 15,000 births, is characterized by severe mental retardation, seizures, difficulty speaking and ataxia. The gene responsible for AS was discovered to be UBE3A and encodes for E6-AP, an ubiquitin ligase. A unique feature of this gene is that it undergoes maternal imprinting in a neuron-specific manner. In the majority of AS cases, there is a mutation or deletion in the maternally inherited UBE3A gene, although other cases are the result of uniparental disomy or mismethylation of the maternal gene. While most human disorders characterized by severe mental retardation involve abnormalities in brain structure, no gross anatomical changes are associated with AS. However, we have determined that abnormal calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) regulation is seen in the maternal UBE3A deletion AS mouse model and is responsible for the major phenotypes. Specifically, there is an increased αCaMKII phosphorylation at the autophosphorylation sites Thr286 and Thr305/306, resulting in an overall decrease in CaMKII activity. CaMKII is not produced until after birth, indicating that the deficits associated with AS are not the result of developmental abnormalities. The present studies are focused on exploring the potential to rescue the learning and memory deficits in the adult AS mouse model through the use of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector to increase neuronal UBE3A expression. These studies show that increasing the levels of E6-AP in the brain using an exogenous vector can improve the cognitive deficits associated with AS. Specifically, the associative learning deficit was ameliorated in the treated AS mice compared to the control AS mice, indicating that therapeutic intervention may be possible in older AS patients.
Binocular vision requires intricate control of eye movement to align overlapping visual fields for fusion in the visual cortex, and each eye is controlled by 6 extraocular muscles (EOMs). Disorders of EOMs are an important cause of symptomatic vision loss. Importantly, EOMs represent specialized skeletal muscles with distinct gene expression profile and susceptibility to neuromuscular disorders. We aim to investigate and describe the anatomy of adult zebrafish extraocular muscles (EOMs) to enable comparison with human EOM anatomy and facilitate the use of zebrafish as a model for EOM research. Using differential interference contrast (DIC), epifluorescence microscopy, and precise sectioning techniques, we evaluate the anatomy of zebrafish EOM origin, muscle course, and insertion on the eye. Immunofluorescence is used to identify components of tendons, basement membrane and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), and to analyze myofiber characteristics. We find that adult zebrafish EOM insertions on the globe parallel the organization of human EOMs, including the close proximity of specific EOM insertions to one another. However, analysis of EOM origins reveals important differences between human and zebrafish, such as the common rostral origin of both oblique muscles and the caudal origin of the lateral rectus muscles. Thrombospondin 4 marks the EOM tendons in regions that are highly innervated, and laminin marks the basement membrane, enabling evaluation of myofiber size and distribution. The NMJs appear to include both en plaque and en grappe synapses, while NMJ density is much higher in EOMs than in somatic muscles. In conclusion, zebrafish and human EOM anatomy are generally homologous, supporting the use of zebrafish for studying EOM biology. However, anatomic differences exist, revealing divergent evolutionary pressures.
Well balanced novelty seeking and exploration are fundamental behaviours for survival and are found to be dysfunctional in several psychiatric disorders. Recent studies suggest that the endocannabinoid (eCB) system is an important control system for investigatory drive. Pharmacological treatment of rodents with cannabinergic drugs results in altered social and object investigation. Interestingly, contradictory results have been obtained, depending on the treatment, drug concentration and experimental conditions. The cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor, a central component of the eCB system, is predominantly found at the synapses of two opposing neuronal populations, i.e. on inhibitory GABAergic and excitatory glutamatergic neurons. In the present study, using different transgenic mouse lines, we aimed at investigating the impact of CB1 receptor inactivation in glutamatergic or GABAergic neurons on investigatory behaviour. We evaluated animate (interaction partner) and inanimate (object) exploratory behaviour in three different paradigms. We show that exploration was increased when CB1 receptor was deleted from cortical and striatal GABAergic neurons. No effect was observed when CB1 receptor was deleted specifically from dopamine receptor D1-expressing striatal GABAergic medium spiny neurons. In contrast, deletion of CB1 receptor from cortical glutamatergic neurons resulted in a decreased exploration. Thus, our results indicate that exploratory behaviour is accurately balanced in both, the social and non-social context, by the eCB system via CB1 receptor activation on cortical glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons. In addition, the results could explain the contradictory findings of previous pharmacological studies and could further suggest a possibility to readjust an imbalance in exploratory behaviour observed in psychiatric disorders.
Forward genetic screens in vertebrates are powerful tools to generate models relevant to human diseases, including neuropsychiatric disorders. Variability in phenotypic penetrance and expressivity is common in these disorders and behavioral mutant models, making their molecular-genetic mapping a formidable task. Using a ‘phenotyping by segregation’ strategy, we molecularly map the hypersensitive zebrafish houdini mutant despite its variable phenotypic penetrance, providing a generally applicable strategy to map zebrafish mutants with subtle phenotypes.
As in many fishes, amphibians and reptiles, the epithalamus of the zebrafish, Danio rerio, develops with pronounced left–right (L–R) asymmetry. For example, in more than 95 per cent of zebrafish larvae, the parapineal, an accessory to the pineal organ, forms on the left side of the brain and the adjacent left habenular nucleus is larger than the right. Disruption of Nodal signalling affects this bias, producing equal numbers of larvae with the parapineal on the left or the right side and corresponding habenular reversals. Pre-selection of live larvae using fluorescent transgenic reporters provides a useful substrate for studying the effects of neuroanatomical asymmetry on behaviour. Previous studies had suggested that epithalamic directionality is correlated with lateralized behaviours such as L–R eye preference. We find that the randomization of epithalamic asymmetry, through perturbation of the nodal-related gene southpaw, does not alter a variety of motor behaviours, including responses to lateralized stimuli. However, we discovered significant deficits in swimming initiation and in the total distance navigated by larvae with parapineal reversals. We discuss these findings with respect to previous studies and recent work linking the habenular region with control of the motivation/reward pathway of the vertebrate brain.
habenula; brain asymmetry; behaviour
One of the central questions in neuroscience is how refined patterns of connectivity in the brain generate and monitor behavior. Genetic mutations can influence neural circuits by disrupting differentiation or maintenance of component neuronal cells or by altering functional patterns of nervous system connectivity. Mutagenesis screens therefore have the potential to reveal not only the molecular underpinnings of brain development and function, but to illuminate the cellular basis of behavior. Practical considerations make the zebrafish an organism of choice for undertaking forward genetic analysis of behavior. The powerful array of experimental tools at the disposal of the zebrafish researcher makes it possible to link molecular function to neuronal properties that underlie behavior. This review focuses on specific challenges to isolating and analyzing behavioral mutants in zebrafish.
zebrafish; behavior; mutagenesis
The Roundabout (Robo) family of receptors and their Slit ligands play well-established roles in axonal guidance, including in humans where horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS) is caused by mutations in the robo3 gene. While significant progress has been made towards understanding the mechanism by which Robo receptors establish commissural projections in the central nervous system, less is known about how these projections contribute to neural circuits mediating behavior. Here we report cloning of the zebrafish behavioral mutant twitch twice and show that twitch twice encodes robo3. We demonstrate that in mutant hindbrains the axons of an identified pair of neurons, the Mauthner cells, fail to cross the midline. The Mauthner neurons are essential for the startle response, and in twitch twice/robo3 mutants misguidance of the Mauthner axons results in a unidirectional startle response. Moreover, we show that twitch twice mutants exhibit normal visual acuity but display defects in horizontal eye movements, suggesting a specific and critical role for twitch twice/robo3 in sensory guided behavior.
robo3; zebrafish; behavior; axon guidance; Mauthner cell; optokinetic response