The hindbrain is responsible for controlling essential functions such as respiration and heart beat that we literally do not think about most of the time. In addition, cranial nerves projecting from the hindbrain control muscles in the jaw, eye, and face, and receive sensory input from these same areas. In all vertebrates that have been studied, the hindbrain passes through a segmented phase shortly after the neural tube has formed, with a series of seven bulges--the rhombomeres--forming along the anterior-posterior extent of the neural tube. Our current understanding of vertebrate hindbrain development comes from integrating data from several model systems. Work on the chick has helped us to understand the cell biology of the rhombomeres, whereas the power of mouse molecular genetics has allowed investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying their development. This review focuses on the special insights that the zebrafish system has provided to our understanding of hindbrain development. As we will discuss, work in the zebrafish has elucidated inductive events that specify the presumptive hindbrain domain and has identified genes required for hindbrain segmentation and the specification of segment identities.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.