Morpholino knockdown of the ubiquitously expressed transmembrane serine protease TMPRSS4a in zebrafish embryos exhibits severe defects in organogenesis and cell adhesion

Biol Chem. 2011 Jul;392(7):653-64. doi: 10.1515/BC.2011.070.


Abstract Over the past years the members of the type II transmembrane serine protease (TTSP) family have emerged as new players in mammalian biology. TMPRSS4 (transmembrane protease/serine) is overexpressed in several human cancer tissues, promoting invasion, migration, and metastasis. However, the physiological function has not yet been elucidated. Here, we present morpholino knockdown studies targeting TMPRSS4a, a homolog of human TMPRSS4 in zebrafish embryos. By RT-PCR, we could demonstrate an expression of this protease already 5 h post-fertilization, suggesting important functions in the early stages of embryonic development. Indeed, in vivo gene silencing caused severe defects in tissue development and cell differentiation including a disturbed skeletal muscle formation, a decelerated heartbeat, and a degenerated vascular system. Scanning electron microscopy revealed strong defects in epidermal skin organization, with clearly altered cell-cell contacts, resulting in the detachment of keratinocytes from the underneath tissue. The disturbed organogenesis in general is consistent with RT-PCR results which exhibited a ubiquitous expression of TMPRSS4a, predominantly in kidney, skin, heart, and gills. Our results demonstrate the importance of TMPRSS4a in tissue development and cell differentiation. Whether its proteolytic activity is directed towards adhesion molecules or leads to the activation of other proteases needs to be investigated further.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organogenesis / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish / classification
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • tmprss4a protein, zebrafish