We completed a large insertional mutagenesis screen in zebrafish to identify genes essential for embryonic and early larval development. We isolated 525 mutants, representing lesions in approximately 390 different genes, and we cloned the majority of these. Here we describe 315 mutants and the corresponding genes. Our data suggest that there are roughly 1,400 embryonic-essential genes in the fish. Thus, we have mutations in approximately 25% of these genes and have cloned approximately 22% of them. Re-screens of our collection to identify mutants with specific developmental defects suggest that approximately 50 genes are essential for the development of some individual organs or cell types. Seventy-two percent of the embryonic-essential fish genes have homologues in yeast, 93% have homologues in invertebrates (fly or worm), and 99% have homologues in human. Yeast and worm orthologues of genes that are essential for early zebrafish development have a strong tendency to be essential for viability in yeast and for embryonic development in the worm. Thus, the trait of being a genetically essential gene is conserved in evolution. This mutant collection should be a valuable resource for diverse studies of cell and developmental biology.
Copyright 2004 The National Academy of Sciencs of the USA