We have analyzed the role of the zebrafish yolk cell in the processes of mesoderm induction and establishment of the organizer. By recombining blastomere-free yolk cells and animal cap tissue we have shown that the yolk cell itself can induce mesoderm in neighboring blastomeres. We further demonstrate the competence of all blastomeres to form mesoderm, suggesting the endogenous mesoderm inducing signal to be locally restricted. Ablation of the vegetal third of the yolk cell during the first 20 min of development does not interfere with mesoderm formation in general, but results in completely ventralized embryos. These embryos lack the notochord, neuroectoderm, and the anterior-most 14-15 somites, demonstrating that the ablation affects the formation of the trunk-, but not the tail region of the embryo. This suggests the presence of a trunk organizer in fish. The dorsalized mutant swirl (zbmp-2b) shows expanded dorsal structures and missing ventral structures. In contrast to the phenotypes obtained upon the ablation treatment in wild-type embryos, removal of the vegetal-most yolk in swirl mutants results in embryos which do form neuroectoderm and anterior trunk somites. However, both wild-type and swirl mutants lack a notochord upon vegetal yolk removal. These ablation experiments in wild-type and swirl mutant embryos demonstrate that in zebrafish dorsal determining factors originate from the vegetal part of the yolk cell. These factors set up two independent activities: one induces the notochord and the other is involved in the formation of the neuroectoderm and the trunk region by counteracting the function of swirl. In addition, these experiments show that the establishment of the anteroposterior axis is independent of the dorsoventral axis.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.