Identification of recessive maternal-effect mutations in the zebrafish using a gynogenesis-based method

Francisco Pelegri, Marcus P S Dekens, Stefan Schulte-Merker, Hans-Martin Maischein, Catrin Weiler, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
Developmental Dynamics 2004, 231 (2): 324-35
In animal species, early developmental processes are driven by maternally derived factors. Here, we describe a forward genetics approach to identify recessive mutations in genes encoding such maternal factors in the zebrafish. We used a gynogenesis-based approach to identify 14 recessive maternal-effect mutations. Homozygosity for these mutations in adult females leads to the inviability of their offspring. Confocal microscopy of embryos labeled with a DNA dye and a membrane marker allowed us to further analyze mutant embryos for defects in nuclear and cellular divisions. The mutations result in a range of defects in early developmental processes, including egg activation, early nuclear events, mitosis, cytokinesis, axial patterning, and gastrulation. Our effort constitutes a systematic attempt to identify maternal-effect genes in a vertebrate species. The sample of mutations that we have identified reflects the diversity of maternally driven functions in early development and underscores the importance of maternal factors in this process.

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