Orthopedia Transcription Factor otpa and otpb Paralogous Genes Function during Dopaminergic and Neuroendocrine Cell Specification in Larval Zebrafish


The homeodomain transcription factor Orthopedia (Otp) is an important regulator for specification of defined subsets of neuroendocrine cells and dopaminergic neurons in vertebrates. In zebrafish, two paralogous otp genes, otpa and otpb, are present in the genome. Neither complete loss of Otp activity nor differential contributions of Otpa and Otpb to specification of defined neuronal populations have been analyzed in detail. We characterized zebrafish embryos and early larvae mutant for null alleles of otpa, otpb, or both genes to determine their individual contributions to the specification of th expressing dopaminergic neuronal populations as well as of crh, oxt, avp, trh or sst1.1 expressing neuroendocrine cells. otpa mutant larvae show an almost complete reduction of ventral diencephalic dopaminergic neurons, as reported previously. A small reduction in the number of trh cells in the preoptic region is detectable in otpa mutants, but no significant loss of crh, oxt and avp preoptic neuroendocrine cells. otpb single mutant larvae do not display a reduction in dopaminergic neurons or neuroendocrine cells in the otp expressing regions. In contrast, in otpa and otpb double mutant larvae specific groups of dopaminergic neurons as well as of crh, oxt, avp, trh and sst1.1-expressing neuroendocrine cells are completely lost. These observations suggest that the requirement for otpa and otpb function during development of the larval diencephalon is partially redundant. During evolutionary diversification of the paralogous otp genes, otpa maintained the prominent role in ventral diencephalic dopaminergic and neuroendocrine cell specification and is capable of partially compensating otpb loss of function. In addition, we identified a role of Otp in the development of a domain of somatostatin1-expressing cells in the rostral hindbrain, a region with strong otp expression but so far uncharacterized Otp function. Otp may thus be crucial for defined neuronal cell types also in the hindbrain.