The mechanism by which pluripotent progenitors give rise to distinct classes of mature neurons in vertebrates is not well understood. To address this issue we undertook a genetic screen for mutations which affect the commitment and differentiation of catecholaminergic (CA) [dopaminergic (DA), noradrenergic (NA), and adrenergic] neurons in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. The identified mutations constitute five complementation groups. motionless and foggy affect the number and differentiation state of hypothalamic DA, telencephalic DA, retinal DA, locus coeruleus (LC) NA, and sympathetic NA neurons. The too few mutation leads to a specific reduction in the number of hypothalamic DA neurons. no soul lacks arch-associated NA cells and has defects in pharyngeal arches, and soulless lacks both arch-associated and LC cell groups. Our analyses suggest that the genes defined by these mutations regulate different steps in the differentiation of multipotent CA progenitors. They further reveal an underlying universal mechanism for the control of CA cell fates, which involve combinatorial usage of regulatory genes.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.