Mis-expression of grainyhead-like transcription factors in zebrafish leads to defects in enveloping layer (EVL) integrity, cellular morphogenesis and axial extension

Lee B. Miles, Charbel Darido, Jan Kaslin, Joan K. Heath, Stephen M. Jane, Sebastian Dworkin

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The grainyhead-like (grhl) transcription factors play crucial roles in craniofacial development, epithelial morphogenesis, neural tube closure, and dorso-ventral patterning. By utilising the zebrafish to differentially regulate expression of family members grhl2b and grhl3, we show that both genes regulate epithelial migration, particularly convergence-extension (CE) type movements, during embryogenesis. Genetic deletion of grhl3 via CRISPR/Cas9 results in failure to complete epiboly and pre-gastrulation embryonic rupture, whereas morpholino (MO)-mediated knockdown of grhl3 signalling leads to aberrant neural tube morphogenesis at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB), a phenotype likely due to a compromised overlying enveloping layer (EVL). Further disruptions of grhl3-dependent pathways (through co-knockdown of grhl3 with target genes spec1 and arhgef19) confirm significant MHB morphogenesis and neural tube closure defects. Concomitant MO-mediated disruption of both grhl2b and grhl3 results in further extensive CE-like defects in body patterning, notochord and somite morphogenesis. Interestingly, over-expression of either grhl2b or grhl3 also leads to numerous phenotypes consistent with disrupted cellular migration during gastrulation, including embryo dorsalisation, axial duplication and impaired neural tube migration leading to cyclopia. Taken together, our study ascribes novel roles to the Grhl family in the context of embryonic development and morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17607
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • development
  • embryology
  • gastrulation

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