Nemaline myopathy is an inherited muscle disease that is mainly diagnosed by the presence of nemaline rods in muscle biopsies. Of the nine genes associated with the disease, five encode components of striated muscle sarcomeres. In a genetic zebrafish screen, the mutant träge (trg) was isolated based on its reduction in muscle birefringence, indicating muscle damage. Myofibres in trg appeared disorganised and showed inhomogeneous cytoplasmic eosin staining alongside malformed nuclei. Linkage analysis of trg combined with sequencing identified a nonsense mutation in tropomodulin4 (tmod4), a regulator of thin filament length and stability. Accordingly, although actin monomers polymerize to form thin filaments in the skeletal muscle of tmod4trg mutants, thin filaments often appeared to be dispersed throughout myofibres. Organised myofibrils with the typical striation rarely assemble, leading to severe muscle weakness, impaired locomotion and early death. Myofibrils of tmod4trg mutants often featured thin filaments of various lengths, widened Z-disks, undefined H-zones and electron-dense aggregations of various shapes and sizes. Importantly, Gomori trichrome staining and the lattice pattern of the detected cytoplasmic rods, together with the reactivity of rods with phalloidin and an antibody against actinin, is reminiscent of nemaline rods found in nemaline myopathy, suggesting that misregulation of thin filament length causes cytoplasmic rod formation in tmod4trg mutants. Although Tropomodulin4 has not been associated with myopathy, the results presented here implicateTMOD4 as a novel candidate for unresolved nemaline myopathies and suggest that the tmod4trg mutant will be a valuable tool to study human muscle disorders.
Myofibrillogenesis; Nemaline myopathy; Neuromuscular disorder; Sarcomere assembly; tmod; Tropomodulin
A major impediment for recovery after mammalian spinal cord injury (SCI) is the glial scar formed by proliferating reactive astrocytes. Finding factors that may reduce glial scarring, increase neuronal survival, and promote neurite outgrowth are of major importance for improving the outcome after SCI. Exogenous fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) has been shown to decrease injury volume and improve functional outcome; however, the mechanisms by which this is mediated are still largely unknown.
In this study, Fgf2 was administered for 2 weeks in mice subcutaneously, starting 30 min after spinal cord hemisection.
Fgf2 treatment decreased the expression of TNF-a at the lesion site, decreased monocyte/macrophage infiltration, and decreased gliosis. Fgf2 induced astrocytes to adopt a polarized morphology and increased expression of radial markers such as Pax6 and nestin. In addition, the levels of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs), expressed by glia, were markedly decreased. Furthermore, Fgf2 treatment promotes the formation of parallel glial processes, “bridges,” at the lesion site that enable regenerating axons through the injury site. Additionally, Fgf2 treatment increased Sox2-expressing cells in the gray matter and neurogenesis around and at the lesion site. Importantly, these effects were correlated with enhanced functional recovery of the left paretic hind limb.
Thus, early pharmacological intervention with Fgf2 following SCI is neuroprotective and creates a proregenerative environment by the modulation of the glia response.
Astroglia; GFAP; nestin; Pax6; progenitors; regeneration; Sox2; spinal cord injury
Within the developing vertebrate retina, particular subtypes of amacrine cells (ACs) tend to arise from progenitors expressing the bHLH transcription factor, Atoh7, which is necessary for the early generation of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). All ACs require the post-mitotic expression of the bHLH transcription factor Ptf1a, however Ptf1a alone is not sufficient to give subtype identities. Here we use functional and in vivo time-lapse studies in the zebrafish retina to investigate on the developmental programs leading to ACs specification within the subsequent divisions of Atoh7-positive progenitors. We find evidences that the homeobox transcription factor Barhl2 is an AC subtype identity-biasing factor that turns on within Atoh7-positive descendants. In vivo lineage tracing reveals that particular modes of cell division tend to generate Barhl2-positive precursors from sisters of RGCs. Additionally, Atoh7 indirectly impacts these division modes to regulate the right number of barhl2-expressing cells. We finally find that Atoh7 itself influences the subtypes of Barhl2-dependent ACs. Taken together, our study uncovers lineage-related and molecular logic of subtype specification in the vertebrate retina, by showing that specific AC subtypes arise via a particular mode of cell division and a transcriptional network cascade involving the sequential expression of first atoh7 followed by ptf1a and then barhl2.
fate determination; cell lineage; Barhl2; subtype specification; retina; zebrafish
Although the adult heart likely retains some regenerative capacity, heart failure (HF) typically remains a progressive disorder. We hypothesise that alterations in the local environment contribute to the failure of regeneration in HF. Previously we showed that nerve growth factor (NGF) is deficient in the failing heart and here we hypothesise that diminished NGF limits the cardiac regenerative response in HF. The capacity of NGF to augment cardiac regeneration was tested in a zebrafish model of HF. Cardiac injury with a HF phenotype was induced in zebrafish larvae at 72 hours post fertilization (hpf) by exposure to aristolochic acid (AA, 2.5 µM, 72–75 hpf). By 168 hpf, AA induced HF and death in 37.5% and 20.8% of larvae respectively (p<0.001). NGF mRNA expression was reduced by 42% (p<0.05). The addition of NGF (50 ng/ml) after exposure to AA reduced the incidence of HF by 50% (p<0.01) and death by 65% (p<0.01). Mechanistically, AA mediated HF was characterised by reduced cardiomyocyte proliferation as reflected by a 6.4 fold decrease in BrdU+ cardiomyocytes (p<0.01) together with features of apoptosis and loss of cardiomyocytes. Following AA exposure, NGF increased the abundance of BrdU+ cardiomyocytes in the heart by 4.8 fold (p<0.05), and this was accompanied by a concomitant significant increase in cardiomyocyte numbers. The proliferative effect of NGF on cardiomyocytes was not associated with an anti-apoptotic effect. Taken together the study suggests that NGF stimulates a regenerative response in the failing zebrafish heart, mediated by stimulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation.
Muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic disorders that specifically affect skeletal muscle and are characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakening. To develop therapies and treatments for these diseases, a better understanding of the molecular basis of muscular dystrophies is required. Thus, identification of causative genes mutated in specific disorders and the study of relevant animal models are imperative. Zebrafish genetic models of human muscle disorders often closely resemble disease pathogenesis, and the optical clarity of zebrafish embryos and larvae enables visualization of dynamic molecular processes in vivo. As an adjunct tool, morpholino studies provide insight into the molecular function of genes and allow rapid assessment of candidate genes for human muscular dystrophies. This unique set of attributes makes the zebrafish model system particularly valuable for the study of muscle diseases. This review discusses how recent research using zebrafish has shed light on the pathological basis of muscular dystrophies, with particular focus on the muscle cell membrane and the linkage between the myofibre cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix.
One of the central questions of developmental biology is how cells of equivalent potential—an equivalence group—come to adopt specific cellular fates. In this study we have used a combination of live imaging, single cell lineage analyses, and perturbation of specific signaling pathways to dissect the specification of the adaxial cells of the zebrafish embryo. We show that the adaxial cells are myogenic precursors that form a cell fate equivalence group of approximately 20 cells that consequently give rise to two distinct sub-types of muscle fibers: the superficial slow muscle fibers (SSFs) and muscle pioneer cells (MPs), distinguished by specific gene expression and cell behaviors. Using a combination of live imaging, retrospective and indicative fate mapping, and genetic studies, we show that MP and SSF precursors segregate at the beginning of segmentation and that they arise from distinct regions along the anterior-posterior (AP) and dorsal-ventral (DV) axes of the adaxial cell compartment. FGF signaling restricts MP cell fate in the anterior-most adaxial cells in each somite, while BMP signaling restricts this fate to the middle of the DV axis. Thus our results reveal that the synergistic actions of HH, FGF, and BMP signaling independently create a three-dimensional (3D) signaling milieu that coordinates cell fate within the adaxial cell equivalence group.
How specific genes and signals act on initially identical cells to generate the different tissues of the body remains one of the central questions of developmental genetics. Zebrafish are a useful model system to tackle this question as the optically clear embryo allows direct imaging of forming tissues, tracking individual cells in a myriad of different genetic contexts. The zebrafish myotome, the compartment of the embryo that gives rise to skeletal muscle, is subdivided into a number of specific cell types—one of which, the adaxial cells, gives rise exclusively to muscle of the “slow twitch” class. The adaxial cells give rise to two types of slow muscle cell types, muscle pioneer cells and non-muscle pioneer slow cells, distinguished by gene expression and different cellular behaviours. In this study we use lineage tracing live imaging and the manipulation of distinct genetic pathways to demonstrate that the adaxial cells form a cell fate “equivalence group” that is specified using separate signaling pathways that operating in distinct dimensions.
Congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of inherited muscle disorders. In patients, muscle weakness is usually present at or shortly after birth and is progressive in nature. Merosin deficient congenital muscular dystrophy (MDC1A) is a form of CMD caused by a defect in the laminin-α2 gene (LAMA2). Laminin-α2 is an extracellular matrix protein that interacts with the dystrophin-dystroglycan (DGC) complex in membranes providing stability to muscle fibers. In an N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea mutagenesis screen to develop zebrafish models of neuromuscular diseases, we identified a mutant fish that exhibits severe muscular dystrophy early in development. Genetic mapping identified a splice site mutation in the lama2 gene. This splice site is highly conserved in humans and this mutation results in mis-splicing of RNA and a loss of protein function. Homozygous lama2 mutant zebrafish, designated lama2cl501/cl501, exhibited reduced motor function and progressive degeneration of skeletal muscles and died at 8–15 days post fertilization. The skeletal muscles exhibited damaged myosepta and detachment of myofibers in the affected fish. Laminin-α2 deficiency also resulted in growth defects in the brain and eye of the mutant fish. This laminin-α2 deficient mutant fish represents a novel disease model to develop therapies for modulating splicing defects in congenital muscular dystrophies and to restore the muscle function in human patients with CMD.
The sequencing of numerous insect genomes has revealed dynamic changes in the number and identity of cytochrome P450 genes in different insects. In the evolutionary sense, the rapid birth and death of many P450 genes is observed, with only a small number of P450 genes showing orthology between insects with sequenced genomes. It is likely that these conserved P450s function in conserved pathways. In this study, we demonstrate the P450 gene, Cyp301a1, present in all insect genomes sequenced to date, affects the formation of the adult cuticle in Drosophila melanogaster. A Cyp301a1 piggyBac insertion mutant and RNAi of Cyp301a1 both show a similar cuticle malformation phenotype, which can be reduced by 20-hydroxyecdysone, suggesting that Cyp301a1 is an important gene involved in the formation of the adult cuticle and may be involved in ecdysone regulation in this tissue.
Our recent paper examined how pelvic fins and their musculature form developmentally and how these mechanisms have evolved within the vertebrate lineage, a process fundamental to the tetrapod transition. The transition from the water onto the land is among one of the most well studied steps in the evolutionary history of vertebrates, yet the genetic basis of this evolutionary transition is little studied and ill-defined. The advent of these terrestrial species resulted in a shift in locomotor strategies from the rhythmic undulating muscles of the fish body to a reliance upon powerful weight bearing muscles of the limbs to generate movement. We demonstrated that the pelvic fin muscles of bony fish are generated by a mechanism that has features of both of limb/fin muscle formation in tetrapods and primitive cartilaginous fish. We hypothesize that the adoption of the fully derived mode of hindlimb muscle formation, was a further modification of the mode of development deployed to generate pelvic fin muscles, a shift in overall muscle bioarchitecture we believe was critical to the success of the tetrapod transition.
muscle; evolution; fin; limb; zebrafish; tetrapod
The expression of the Prospero homeodomain transcription factor (Prox1) in a subset of cardinal venous cells specifies the lymphatic lineage in mice. Prox1 is also indispensible for the maintenance of lymphatic cell fate, and is therefore considered a master control gene for lymphangiogenesis in mammals. In zebrafish, there are two prox1 paralogues, the previously described prox1 (also known as prox1a) and the newly identified prox1b.
To investigate the role of the prox1b gene in zebrafish lymphangiogenesis, we knocked-down prox1b and found that depletion of prox1b mRNA did not cause lymphatic defects. We also generated two different prox1b mutant alleles, and maternal-zygotic homozygous mutant embryos were viable and did not show any lymphatic defects. Furthermore, the expression of prox1b was not restricted to lymphatic vessels during zebrafish development.
We conclude that Prox1b activity is not essential for embryonic lymphatic development in zebrafish.
Duchenne muscular dystophy (DMD) is a severe muscle wasting disease caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. By utilizing antisense oligonucleotides, splicing of the dystrophin transcript can be altered so that exons harbouring a mutation are excluded from the mature mRNA. Although this approach has been shown to be effective to restore partially functional dystrophin protein, the level of dystrophin protein that is necessary to rescue a severe muscle pathology has not been addressed. As zebrafish dystrophin mutants (dmd) resemble the severe muscle pathology of human patients, we have utilized this model to evaluate exon skipping. Novel dmd mutations were identified to enable the design of phenotype rescue studies via morpholino administration. Correlation of induced exon-skipping efficiency and the level of phenotype rescue suggest that relatively robust levels of exon skipping are required to achieve significant therapeutic ameliorations and that pre-screening analysis of exon-skipping drugs in zebrafish may help to more accurately predict clinical trials for therapies of DMD.
dystrophin; DMD; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; zebrafish; muscle; exon skipping
Locomotor strategies in terrestrial tetrapods have evolved from the utilisation of sinusoidal contractions of axial musculature, evident in ancestral fish species, to the reliance on powerful and complex limb muscles to provide propulsive force. Within tetrapods, a hindlimb-dominant locomotor strategy predominates, and its evolution is considered critical for the evident success of the tetrapod transition onto land. Here, we determine the developmental mechanisms of pelvic fin muscle formation in living fish species at critical points within the vertebrate phylogeny and reveal a stepwise modification from a primitive to a more derived mode of pelvic fin muscle formation. A distinct process generates pelvic fin muscle in bony fishes that incorporates both primitive and derived characteristics of vertebrate appendicular muscle formation. We propose that the adoption of the fully derived mode of hindlimb muscle formation from this bimodal character state is an evolutionary innovation that was critical to the success of the tetrapod transition.
The transition of vertebrates from water to land is a fundamental step in the evolution of terrestrial life. Innovations that were critical to this transition were the evolution of a weight bearing pelvis, hindlimbs and their associated musculature, and the development of the “rear wheel drive” strategy that predominates in terrestrial locomotion. The fossil record can reveal how the skeletal framework of the load-bearing limbs of tetrapods (animals descended from fish) has evolved, but as soft tissues are rarely preserved within the fossil record, it can shed little light on how the accompanying dramatic alterations of the limb musculature arose developmentally. To examine this question we determined the mechanisms that generate fin muscles within larvae of living species representing several clades of fish across the vertebrate phylogeny. Using this comparative approach and a novel somite transplantation technique in zebrafish, we determine that the pelvic fin muscles of bony fish are generated by a bimodal mechanism that has features of limb/fin muscle formation in tetrapods and primitive cartilaginous fish. Using these data, we propose a unifying evolutionary hypothesis on the origins of the muscle of the paired fins and limbs, and speculate that the adoption of tetrapod mode of hindlimb muscle formation was also an evolutionary innovation critical to the success of the tetrapod transition.
As the vertebrate myotome is generated, myogenic precursor cells undergo extensive and coordinated movements as they differentiate into properly positioned embryonic muscle fibers. In the zebrafish, the “adaxial” cells adjacent to the notochord are the first muscle precursors to be specified. After initially differentiating into slow-twitch myosin-expressing muscle fibers, these cells have been shown to undergo a remarkable radial migration through the lateral somite, to populate the superficial layer of slow-twitch muscle of the mature myotome. Here we characterize an earlier set of adaxial cell behaviors; the transition from a roughly 4 × 5 array of cuboidal cells to a 1 × 20 stack of elongated cells, prior to the migration event. We find that adaxial cells display a highly stereotypical series of behaviors as they undergo this rearrangement. Further, we show that the actin regulatory molecule, Cap1, is specifically expressed in adaxial cells and is required for the progression of these behaviors. The requirement of Cap1 for a cellular apical constriction step is reminiscent of similar requirements of Cap during apical constriction in Drosophila development, suggesting a conservation of gene function for a cell biological event critical to many developmental processes.
Myotome; Muscle; cap; Adaxial; Apical Constriction; Somite; Zebrafish
Over the last two decades, zebrafish have been established as a genetically versatile model system for investigating many different aspects of vertebrate developmental biology. With the credentials of zebrafish as a developmental model now well recognized, the emerging new opportunity is the wider application of zebrafish biology to aspects of human disease modelling. This rapidly increasing use of zebrafish as a model for human disease has necessarily generated interest in the anatomy of later developmental phases such as the larval, juvenile, and adult stages, during which many of the key aspects of organ morphogenesis and maturation take place. Anatomical resources and references that encompass these stages are non-existent in zebrafish and there is therefore an urgent need to understand how different organ systems and anatomical structures develop throughout the life of the fish.
To overcome this deficit we have utilized the technique of optical projection tomography to produce three-dimensional (3D) models of larval fish. In order to view and display these models we have created FishNet http://www.fishnet.org.au, an interactive reference of zebrafish anatomy spanning the range of zebrafish development from 24 h until adulthood.
FishNet contains more than 36 000 images of larval zebrafish, with more than 1 500 of these being annotated. The 3D models can be manipulated on screen or virtually sectioned. This resource represents the first complete embryo to adult atlas for any species in 3D.