The zebrafish hlx-1 gene belongs to the H2.0 subfamily of homeobox genes and is closely related to the mouse Dbx gene with respect to both homeodomain homology (96.7%) and neural expression during embryogenesis. Analysis of hlx-1 expression by in situ hybridization reveals several particularly interesting features. In late gastrula embryos, hlx-1 transcripts are detected within a circular area in the region of the presumptive rostral brain. Subsequently, the expression domain becomes restricted to the hypoblast and undergoes dynamic changes involving conversion into a longitudinal stripe which elongates and retracts following a temporal sequence. The site of transient hlx-1 expression along the ventral midline of the rostral neurectoderm, which in part corresponds to the prechordal plate, suggests a role in the determination of head mesoderm as well as in patterning of the rostral brain. As the midline stripe gradually disappears, the hlx-1 gene becomes regionally expressed within the diencephalon and at a specific dorsoventral level along the hindbrain and spinal cord. In the hindbrain, expression is initiated in dorsoventrally restricted transversal stripes which correlate with the segmental pattern of rhombomeres. The stripes fuse into bilateral columns that are later converted to two series of paired transversal stripes at the rhombomere borders. This pattern is consistent with the proposed subdivision of hindbrain segments into rhombomere centers separated by border regions.
The wnt gene family codes for a group of cysteine-rich, secreted proteins, which are differentially expressed in the developing embryo and are possibly involved in cellular communication. Here, we describe the polymerase chain reaction based cloning and embryonic expression patterns of four zebrafish wnt-related sequences; wnt[a], wnt[b], wnt[c] and wnt[d]. One of these genes, wnt[a], is a potential homologue of murine Wnt-3, while the other three genes most likely represent new members of the vertebrate wnt gene family. In zebrafish embryos, transcripts of wnt[a] are confined to the dorsal diencephalon, the dorsal midbrain, the rhombic lips and the dorsal portions of the spinal cord. wnt[b] is expressed in the tail bud and at considerably lower levels in the mesoderm of the head. wnt[c] transcripts are present within the diencephalon and the posterior midbrain whereas wnt[d] shows a surprisingly similar expression pattern to zebrafish wnt-1. By analogy to wnt-1, it is likely that the members of the zebrafish wnt gene family play an important role in cell-to-cell signalling during pattern formation in the neural tube and the tail bud.
The paired box-containing (pax) gene family encodes a group of putative transcription factors differentially expressed during embryonic development. In this study, we describe the cloning and expression of a zebrafish gene pax[zf-b], which most probably is a direct homologue to the mouse Pax2 gene. The putative protein encoded by pax[zf-b] contains a paired box, an octapeptide, but no homeobox. However, a region of homology to the N-terminal half of paired-type homeoboxes is detected C-terminal to the pax[zf-b] paired domain. In zebrafish embryos, pax[zf-b] transcripts are first seen during the formation of the neural keel. At 9–10 h of development, two laterally located transverse stripes of cells expressing the gene appear in the rostral 1/3 of the embryo. The two areas subsequently move towards the midline and form the posterior portion of the midbrain. In the following stages of development, at 10–12 h, transcripts are detected in the otic placode, the Wolffian duct including the nephritic primodium and in the optic stalk. At a later time point, beginning at 14–15 h, single cells along the spinal cord, presumably interneurons, start to express the gene. The characteristic expression pattern of pax[zf-b] in the neural tube suggests an involvement of this gene in the regionalization of the midbrain as well as in the specification of neuronal cell fates at early embryonic stages.