Background: Math6/atoh8, a bHLH transcription factor, is thought to be indispensable for early embryonic development and likely has important roles in vertebrate tissue-specific differentiation. However, the function of Atoh8 during early development is not clear because homozygous knockout causes embryonic lethality in mice. We have examined the effects of the atoh8 gene on the differentiation of retina and skeletal muscle during early development in zebrafish.
Results: We isolated a Math6 homologue in zebrafish, designated as zebrafish atoh8. Whole -mount in situ hybridization analysis showed that zebrafish atoh8 is dynamically expressed mainly in developing retina and skeletal muscle. Atoh8-MO knock-down resulted in reduced eye size with disorganization of retinal lamination. The reduction of atoh8 function also affected the arrangement of paraxial cells and differentiated muscle fibers during somite morphogenesis.
Conclusion: Our results show that Atoh8 is an important regulator for the development of both the retina and skeletal muscles necessary for neural retinal cell and myogenic differentiation during zebrafish embryogenesis.