Members of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family of peptide ligands have been implicated in otic placode induction in several vertebrate species. Here, we have functionally analyzed the roles of fgf3 and fgf8 in zebrafish otic development. The role of fgf8 was assessed by analyzing acerebellar (ace) mutants. fgf3 function was disrupted by injecting embryos with antisense morpholino oligomers (MO) specifically designed to block translation of fgf3 transcripts. Disruption of either fgf3 or fgf8 causes moderate reduction in the size of the otic vesicle. Injection of fgf3-MO into ace/ace mutants causes much more severe reduction or complete loss of otic tissue. Moreover, preplacode cells fail to express pax8 and pax2.1, indicating disruption of early stages of otic induction in fgf3-depleted ace/ace mutants. Both fgf3 and fgf8 are normally expressed in the germring by 50% epiboly and are induced in the primordium of rhombomere 4 by 80% epibloy. In addition, fgf3 is expressed during the latter half of gastrulation in the prechordal plate and paraxial cephalic mesendoderm, tissues that either pass beneath or persist near the prospective otic ectoderm. Conditions that alter the pattern of expression of fgf3 and/or fgf8 cause corresponding changes in otic induction. Loss of maternal and zygotic one-eyed pinhead (oep) does not alter expression of fgf3 or fgf8 in the hindbrain, but ablates mesendodermal sources of fgf signaling and delays otic induction by several hours. Conversely, treatment of wild-type embryos with retinoic acid greatly expands the periotic domains of expression of fgf3, fgf8, and pax8 and leads to formation of supernumerary and ectopic otic vesicles. These data support the hypothesis that fgf3 and fgf8 cooperate during the latter half of gastrulation to induce differentiation of otic placodes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.