Leaning to the left: laterality in the zebrafish forebrain

Trends Neurosci. 2003 Jun;26(6):308-13. doi: 10.1016/S0166-2236(03)00129-2.


How the brain becomes lateralized is poorly understood. By contrast, much is known about molecular cues that specify the left-right axis of the body, fashioning the asymmetric morphology and positioning of the visceral organs. In zebrafish, the Nodal signaling pathway functions in visceral asymmetry and also in the embryonic brain, to bias laterality of the epithalamus. Formation of an asymmetric pineal complex differentially influences adjacent diencephalic nuclei, the left and right habenulae, which acquire distinctive molecular and cellular features. Results from the genetically tractable zebrafish system provide a promising entry point for exploring how left-right biases are established and propagated in the developing vertebrate brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Diencephalon / growth & development
  • Diencephalon / metabolism
  • Epithalamus / growth & development*
  • Epithalamus / metabolism
  • Functional Laterality / genetics
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Nodal Protein
  • Organogenesis / genetics
  • Organogenesis / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / growth & development*


  • Nodal Protein
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta