The zebrafish nodal-related gene southpaw is required for visceral and diencephalic left-right asymmetry

Development. 2003 Jun;130(11):2303-16. doi: 10.1242/dev.00436.


We have identified and characterized a new zebrafish gene, southpaw, that is required for visceral and diencephalic left-right asymmetry. southpaw encodes a new member of the nodal-related class of proteins, a subfamily within the transforming growth factor beta superfamily of secreted factors. southpaw is expressed bilaterally in paraxial mesoderm precursors and then within the left lateral plate mesoderm. At late somite stages, left-sided southpaw expression transiently overlaps the left-sided expression domains of other genes that mark the developing heart, such as lefty2. We have injected morpholinos to block the translation of the southpaw mRNA or to block splicing of the southpaw pre-mRNA. These morpholinos cause a severe disruption of early (cardiac jogging) and late (cardiac looping) aspects of cardiac left-right asymmetry. As the left-right asymmetry of the pancreas is also affected, southpaw appears to regulate left-right asymmetry throughout a large part of the embryo. Consistent with the morphological changes, the left-sided expression domains of downstream genes (cyclops, pitx2, lefty1 and lefty2) are severely downregulated or abolished within the lateral plate mesoderm of Southpaw-deficient embryos. Surprisingly, despite the absence of southpaw expression in the brain, we find that early diencephalic left-right asymmetry also requires Southpaw activity. These observations lead to a model of how visceral organ and brain left-right asymmetry are coordinated during embryogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Diencephalon / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / embryology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / genetics
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nodal Protein
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacology
  • Organizers, Embryonic / embryology
  • Pancreas / embryology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Nodal Protein
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Antisense
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Zebrafish Proteins