Interactions with identified muscle cells break motoneuron equivalence in embryonic zebrafish

Nature Neuroscience
J S Eisen, E F Melancon


Two zebrafish motoneurons, CaP and VaP, are initially developmentally equivalent; later, CaP innervates ventral muscle, whereas VaP dies. Current models suggest that vertebrate motoneuron death results from failure to compete for limited, target-derived trophic support. In contrast, we provide evidence that zebrafish ventral muscle can support both CaP and VaP survival. However, VaP's growth cone is prevented from extending into ventral muscle by CaP-dependent interactions with identified muscle fibers, the muscle pioneers; this interaction breaks the initial equivalence of CaP and VaP. Thus, the processes mediating VaP death are more complex than failure to compete for trophic support, and may be important for correct spatial patterning.


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