Molecular Mechanisms of Neural Induction and Patterning in the Zebrafish Embryo
Pereira da Cruz, Carlos
Date: 31 March 2011
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences
The brain is our most complex organ, with an estimated 1011 neurons. With the spinal cord, it forms the central nervous system which controls our movements and our senses, holds our memories and creates our thoughts. Because of this, neurodegenerative disorders can be extremely distressing and a thorough understanding of how the nervous ...
The brain is our most complex organ, with an estimated 1011 neurons. With the spinal cord, it forms the central nervous system which controls our movements and our senses, holds our memories and creates our thoughts. Because of this, neurodegenerative disorders can be extremely distressing and a thorough understanding of how the nervous system develops is essential if progress is to be made in finding ways to treat them. Critically, this includes understanding how the nervous system forms, i.e., the nature of the signals that promote neural identity (neural induction) and determine correct positional information (patterning). The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become established as a model for embryological studies due to ease of experimental manipulation. Taking advantage of this, the aims of this PhD were to contribute to unravelling the molecular mechanisms of neural induction and patterning, using a variety of embryological and molecular methods. In the first project, functional analyses of the eve1 gene identified a key factor for posterior neural development. Eve1 was found to be a critical posteriorising factor, with an additional role in posterior neural induction. An outstanding question in neural induction is the relative contribution to this process of two key developmentally important signalling pathways, Bmp and Fgf. In the second project, differential analyses of maternal versus zygotic Bmp and Fgf signalling revealed crucial maternal roles for these two pathways in neural development as neural and epidermal capacitators. The results further suggested that Fgf signalling may be the critical neural inducer. Finally, as a third project, a zebrafish ectodermal explant assay was developed using the organiser-deficient ichabod mutant. The aim was to develop a system to analyse how key molecules directly affect ectoderm and neural development, free of mesoderm and endoderm influences, as signalling from these layers can directly or indirectly influence neural development.
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