A vast number of apicobasal polarity proteins play essential roles in the polarization and morphogenesis of the neuroepithelia. Crumbs (Crb) type I transmembrane cell-cell adhesion proteins are among these proteins. Five crb genes have been identified in zebrafish. However, their expressional and functional differences during early neural development remain to be fully elucidated. Here, we study the spatial-temporal expression patterns and functions of Crb1, Crb2a, and Crb2b in the central nervous system (CNS) during the neurulation period. We show that: 1, the optic vesicle and undifferentiated retinal neuroepithelium only express Crb2a; 2, Crb1 and Crb2a expressions overlap extensively in the undifferentiated neural tube epithelium; 3, Crb2b expression is the weakest of the three and is restricted to the ventral-most regions of the anterior CNS; and 4, Nok and Crb proteins require each other for their apical localization in neuroepithelium. The commencements of Crb1, Crb2a, and Crb2b expressions follow a spatial-temporal spread from anterior to posterior and from ventral to dorsal and lag behind that of adherens junction components, such as ZO-1 and actin bundles. Genetic and morpholino suppression analyses suggest that in regions where these Crb expressions overlap, they are functionally redundant in maintaining apicobasal polarity of the undifferentiated neuroepithelium.
Transgenic animals are powerful tools to study gene function invivo. Here we characterize several transgenic zebrafish lines that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the LCR(RH2)-RH2-1 or LCR(RH2)-RH2-2 green opsin regulatory elements. Using confocal immunomicroscopy, stereo-fluorescence microscopy, and Western blotting, we show that the Tg(LCR(RH2)-RH2-1:GFP)(pt112) and Tg(LCR(RH2)-RH2-2:GFP)(pt115) transgenic zebrafish lines express GFP in the pineal gland and certain types of photoreceptors. In addition, some of these lines also express GFP in the hatching gland, optic tectum, or olfactory bulb. Some of the expression patterns differ significantly from previously published similar transgenic fish lines, making them useful tools for studying the development of the corresponding tissues and organs. In addition, the variations of GFP expression among different lines corroborate the notion that transgenic expression is often subjected to position effect, thus emphasizing the need for careful verification of expression patterns when transgenic animal models are utilized for research.
Cells change extensively in their locations and property during embryogenesis. These changes are regulated by the interactions between the cells and their environment. Chimeric embryos, which are composed of cells of different genetic background, are great tools to study the cell-cell interactions mediated by genes of interest. The embryonic transparency of zebrafish at early developmental stages permits direct visualization of the morphogenesis of tissues and organs at the cellular level. Here, we demonstrate a protocol to generate chimeric retinas and brains in zebrafish embryos and to perform live imaging of the donor cells. The protocol covers the preparation of transplantation needles, the transplantation of GFP-expressing donor blastomeres to GFP-negative hosts, and the examination of donor cell behavior under live confocal microscopy. With slight modifications, this protocol can also be used to study the embryonic development of other tissues and organs in zebrafish. The advantages of using GFP to label donor cells are also discussed.
The inner segments (IS) of the photoreceptors in vertebrates are enriched with polarity scaffold proteins, which maintain the integrity of many tissues by mediating cell-cell adhesion either directly or indirectly. The formation of photoreceptor mosaics may require differential adhesion among different types of photoreceptors. It is unknown whether any polarity proteins are selectively expressed in certain photoreceptors to mediate differential intercellular adhesion, which may be important for photoreceptor patterning. This study was undertaken to identify such polarity proteins.
During vertebrate neurulation, extensive cell movements transform the flat neural plate into the neural tube. This dynamic morphogenesis requires the tissue to bear a certain amount of plasticity to accommodate shape and position changes of individual cells as well as intercellular cohesiveness to maintain tissue integrity and architecture. For most of the neural plate-neural tube transition, cells are polarized along the apicobasal axis. The establishment and maintenance of this polarity requires many polarity proteins that mediate cell-cell adhesion either directly or indirectly. Intercellular adhesion reduces tissue plasticity and enhances tissue integrity. However, it remains unclear how apicobasal polarity is regulated to meet the opposing needs for tissue plasticity and tissue integrity during neurulation. Here, we show that N-Cad/ZO-1 complex-initiated apicobasal polarity is stabilized by the late-onsetting Lin7c/Nok complex after the extensive morphogenetic cell movements in neurulation. Loss of either N-Cad or Lin7c disrupts neural tube formation. Furthermore, precocious overexpression of Lin7c induces multiaxial mirror symmetry in zebrafish neurulation. Our data suggest that stepwise maturation of apicobasal polarity plays an essential role in vertebrate neurulation.
We recently cloned the zebrafish neuronal enolase-2 gene and showed that a 12-kb eno2 promoter element was sufficient to drive transgene expression widely in CNS neurons in vivo from 48h post-fertilization through adulthood. The aim of the present study was to establish the expression pattern of the 12-kb eno2 promoter element in the zebrafish visual system. Endogenous eno2 mRNA was detected in the developing retina from 2 days post-fertilization (dpf), and by 12dpf was localized to the retinal ganglion cell, inner and outer nuclear layers. Similar to endogenous eno2, GFP expression in the retina of Tg(eno2:GFP) larvae was first evident at 2dpf, and by 12dpf intense GFP expression was seen in the retinal ganglion cell and photoreceptor layers, with weaker expression in the inner nuclear layer. We identified cell types expressing the eno2 promoter element by using two complementary strategies: (i) double label immunofluorescence analysis of Tg(eno2:GFP) zebrafish, and (ii) generation of double transgenic zebrafish expressing red fluorescent protein under transcriptional control of the 12-kb eno2 promoter and GFP under a rod- or cone-specific promoter. The 12-kb eno2 promoter was expressed in retinal ganglion cells, amacrine cells, including a subset that co-expressed tyrosine hydroxylase, and rod photoreceptors. These data suggest that abnormalities of vision should be sought in transgenic models of diseases generated using this promoter. Owing to the specific expression of fluorescent reporters in neuronal subpopulations, Tg(eno2:GFP) and Tg(eno2:mRFP) zebrafish may be useful for studies of retinal lamination, neuronal differentiation and synapse formation in the visual system.
Cone photoreceptors are assembled by unknown mechanisms into geometrically regular mosaics in many vertebrate species. The formation and maintenance of photoreceptor mosaics are speculated to require differential cell-cell adhesion. However, the molecular basis for this theory has yet to be identified. The retina and many other tissues express Crumbs (Crb) polarity proteins. The functions of the extracellular domains of Crb proteins remain to be understood. Here we report cell-type-specific expression of the crb2a and crb2b genes at the cell membranes of photoreceptor inner segments and Müller cell apical processes in the zebrafish retina. We demonstrate that the extracellular domains of Crb2a and Crb2b mediate a cell-cell adhesion function, which plays an essential role in maintaining the integrity of photoreceptor layer and cone mosaics. Because Crb proteins are expressed in many types of epithelia, the Crb-based cell-cell adhesion may underlie cellular patterning in other epithelium-derived tissues as well.
To simultaneously visualize individual cell nuclei and tissue morphologies of the zebrafish retina under bright field light microscopy, it is necessary to establish a procedure that specifically and sensitively stains the cell nuclei in thin tissue sections. This necessity arises from the high nuclear density of the retina and the highly decondensed chromatin of the cone photoreceptors, which significantly reduces their nuclear signals and makes nuclei difficult to distinguish from possible high cytoplasmic background staining. Here we optimized a procedure that integrates JB4 plastic embedding and Feulgen reaction for visualizing zebrafish retinal cell nuclei under bright field light microscopy. This method produced highly specific nuclear staining with minimal cytoplasmic background, allowing us to distinguish individual retinal nuclei despite their tight packaging. The nuclear staining is also sensitive enough to distinguish the euchromatin from heterochromatin in the zebrafish cone nuclei. In addition, this method could be combined with in situ hybridization to simultaneously visualize the cell nuclei and mRNA expression patterns. With its superb specificity and sensitivity, this method may be extended to quantify cell density and analyze global chromatin organization throughout the retina or other tissues.
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