Molecular genetics of axis formation in zebrafish

Annu Rev Genet. 2005;39:561-613. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.37.110801.143752.


The basic vertebrate body plan of the zebrafish embryo is established in the first 10 hours of development. This period is characterized by the formation of the anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral axes, the development of the three germ layers, the specification of organ progenitors, and the complex morphogenetic movements of cells. During the past 10 years a combination of genetic, embryological, and molecular analyses has provided detailed insights into the mechanisms underlying this process. Maternal determinants control the expression of transcription factors and the location of signaling centers that pattern the blastula and gastrula. Bmp, Nodal, FGF, canonical Wnt, and retinoic acid signals generate positional information that leads to the restricted expression of transcription factors that control cell type specification. Noncanonical Wnt signaling is required for the morphogenetic movements during gastrulation. We review how the coordinated interplay of these molecules determines the fate and movement of embryonic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning*
  • Endoderm / cytology
  • Endoderm / metabolism
  • Gastrula / cytology
  • Gastrula / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics*