Within the past two decades, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become an excellent model to study the development of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). All vertebrates including zebrafish have primitive and definitive waves of hematopoiesis, but self-renewing pluripotent HSCs are only produced by the definitive wave. The primitive wave occurs in two intraembryonic locations called the intermediate cell mass (ICM) and the anterior lateral mesoderm (ALM). Primitive erythropoiesis is in the ICM, whereas myelopoiesis initiates in the ALM. After circulation starts at 24 h post-fertilization, hematopoiesis shifts to the posterior blood island (PBI) for a brief period. The definitive wave starts in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM). There are three different HSC migration and colonization events that begin 2 days post-fertilization: AGM progenitor cells migrate to (1) the caudal hematopoietic tissue (CHT), which is an intermediate site of blood development; (2) the thymus, which is a site of lymphocyte maturation; and (3) the developing kidney marrow, which is the larval and adult location for production of all hematopoietic cell types, and is comparable to the bone marrow of mammals. Many of the transcription factors and signaling pathways that regulate the formation of HSCs in a zebrafish are conserved with mammals. Large-scale forward and reverse genetic screens have identified zebrafish blood and HSC mutants that represent models for known human diseases. Along with the technological advancements in the field of zebrafish research, future HSC studies in zebrafish will help us illuminate the genetic network controlling the development and function of stem cells in all vertebrates.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.