Bone morphogenetic protein-4 expression characterizes inductive boundaries in organs of developing zebrafish
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We have cloned and examined the expression pattern of zebrafish bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP4) as a start to evaluating signals which might participate in the fashioning of organ systems in this genetically tractable species. The predicted sequence of the mature zebrafish protein is more than 75% identical to that of other vertebrates and 66% identical to Drosophila decapentaplegic (Dpp). As in other species, BMP4 is expressed ventrally during gastrulation, but the zebrafish is unusual in having an additional dorsal domain of expression. Subsequent BMP4 expression is especially prominent in sensory organs, fin buds, and in the gut, kidney, and heart. In all these sites, it becomes particularly enriched in regions of inductive demarcations. For example, expression initially extends through the entire heart tube but then becomes limited to the boundaries between cardiac chambers (sinus venosus-atrial junction, atrio-ventricular junction, and aortic root) prior to cushion formation. In early pectoral fin development, BMP4 is at first expressed uniformly but then becomes restricted to the mesenchyme subjacent to the apical ectodermal ridge. This suggests that among its roles in development, BMP4 serves as a signal in primordial outgrowth and also as a signal demarcating the borders within organs or structures where subspecializations occur.
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