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Cellular rearrangement of the prechordal plate contributes to eye degeneration in the cavefish

journal contribution
posted on 09.05.2019 by Xiaoyun Ren, Noémie Hamilton, Ferenc Müller, Yoshiyuki Yamamoto
Astyanax mexicanus consists of two different populations: a sighted surface-dwelling form (surface fish) and a blind cave-dwelling form (cavefish). In the cavefish, embryonic expression of sonic hedgehog a (shha) in the prechordal plate is expanded towards the anterior midline, which has been shown to contribute to cavefish specific traits such as eye degeneration, enhanced feeding apparatus, and specialized brain anatomy. However, it is not clear how this expanded expression is achieved and which signaling pathways are involved. Nodal signaling has a crucial role for expression of shh and formation of the prechordal plate. In this study, we report increased expression of prechordal plate marker genes, nodal-related 2 (ndr2) and goosecoid (gsc) in cavefish embryos at the tailbud stage. To investigate whether Nodal signaling is responsible for the anterior expansion of the prechordal plate, we used an inhibitor of Nodal signaling and showed a decreased anterior expansion of the prechordal plate and increased pax6 expression in the anterior midline in treated cavefish embryos. Later in development, the lens and optic cup of treated embryos were significantly larger than untreated embryos. Conversely, increasing Nodal signaling in the surface fish embryo resulted in the expansion of anterior prechordal plate and reduction of pax6 expression in the anterior neural plate together with the formation of small lenses and optic cups later in development. These results confirmed that Nodal signaling has a crucial role for the anterior expansion of the prechordal plate and plays a significant role in cavefish eye development. We showed that the anterior expansion of the prechordal plate was not due to increased total cell number, suggesting the expansion is achieved by changes in cellular distribution in the prechordal plate. In addition, the distribution of presumptive prechordal plate cells in Spemann's organiser was also altered in the cavefish. These results suggested that changes in the cellular arrangement of Spemann's organiser in early gastrulae could have an essential role in the anterior expansion of the prechordal plate contributing to eye degeneration in the cavefish.

Funding

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/C517041/1)

British Heart Foundation (PG/12/39/29626)

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