Zebrafish tiggy-winkle hedgehog (twhh) is a member of the hedgehog gene family that plays an important role in patterning brain, neural tube, somites, and eyes. To better understand the regulation of its tissue-specific expression, the activity of the twhh promoter was determined in zebrafish embryos by transient and transgenic expression analysis. Transient expression studies revealed that the 5.2-kb twhh promoter drove green fluorescence protein (GFP) expression in the notochord, floor plate, and branchial arches. Deletion analysis showed that distinct regions of the twhh promoter regulated the respective notochord or floor plate specific expression. To confirm the tissue specificity of the twhh promoter, transgenic zebrafish containing the twhh-GFP transgene were generated. GFP expression was analyzed in the F1, F2, and F3 generations of the transgenic embryos. The results confirmed the tissue-specific expression of the transgene in the notochord, floor plate, and branchial arches. In addition, GFP expression was also found in the pectoral fin buds, retina, and epithelial lining cells of the Kupffer's vesicle in the transgenic fish embryos. The expression pattern of the twhh-GFP transgene mimicked the expression of the endogenous twhh mRNAs in the floor plate, fin buds, branchial arches, retina, and epithelial lining cells of the Kupffer's vesicle. The expression in the notochord, however, did not mimic the pattern of the endogenous twhh expression. To determine whether no tail (ntl) or floating head (flh) mutants that have developmental defect in the notochord or the Kupffer's vesicle may affect the GFP expression in these regions, GFP expression was analyzed in ntl or flh transgenic embryos. No GFP expression could be detected in the midline region of the ntl transgenic embryos. However, in flh transgenic embryos, although GFP expression was affected in the midline region, its expression in the Kupffer's vesicle appeared normal. Together, these data indicated that the 5.2-kb twhh promoter contains regulatory elements for tissue-specific expression of twhh in the floor plate, pectoral fin bud, branchial arches, retina, and Kupffer's vesicle.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.