Background: The sensory neurons and glia of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) arise from neural crest cells in the developing vertebrate embryo. In mouse and chick, DRG formation is completed during embryogenesis. In contrast, zebrafish continue to add neurons and glia to the DRG into adulthood, long after neural crest migration is complete. The molecular and cellular regulation of late DRG growth in the zebrafish remains to be characterized.
Results: In the present study, we use transgenic zebrafish lines to examine neuronal addition during postembryonic DRG growth. Neuronal addition is continuous over the period of larval development. Fate-mapping experiments support the hypothesis that new neurons are added from a population of resident, neural crest-derived progenitor cells. Conditional inhibition of Notch signaling was used to assess the role of this signaling pathway in neuronal addition. An increase in the number of DRG neurons is seen when Notch signaling is inhibited during both early and late larval development.
Conclusions: Postembryonic growth of the zebrafish DRG comes about, in part, by addition of new neurons from a resident progenitor population, a process regulated by Notch signaling.