Vertebrate hematopoiesis is characterized by two evolutionally conserved phases of development, i.e., primitive hematopoiesis, which is a transient phenomenon in the early embryo, and definitive hematopoiesis, which takes place in the later stages. Beni fuji (bef) was originally isolated as a medaka mutant that has an apparently reduced number of erythrocytes in its peripheral blood. Positional cloning revealed that the bef mutant has a nonsense mutation in the c-myb gene. Previous studies have shown that c-myb is essential for definitive hematopoiesis, and c-myb is now widely used as a marker gene for the onset of definitive hematopoiesis. To analyze the phenotypes of the bef mutant, we performed whole-mount in situ hybridization with gene markers of hematopoietic cells. The bef embryos showed decreased expression of alpha-globin and l-plastin, and a complete loss of mpo1 and rag1 expression, suggesting that the bef embryos had defects not only in erythrocytes but also in other myeloid cells, which indicates that their definitive hematopoiesis was aberrant. Interestingly, we observed a diminution in the number of primitive erythrocytes and a delay in the emergence of primitive macrophages in the bef embryos. These results suggest that c-myb also functions in the primitive hematopoiesis, potentially demonstrating a link between primitive and definitive hematopoiesis.
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