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In vertebrates, left-right (LR) axis specification is determined by a ciliated structure in the posterior region of the embryo. Fluid flow in this ciliated structure is responsible for the induction of unilateral left-sided Nodal activity in the lateral plate mesoderm, which in turn regulates organ laterality. Bmp signalling activity has been implied in repressing Nodal expression on the right side, however its mechanism of action has been controversial. In a forward genetic screen for mutations that affect LR patterning, we identified the zebrafish linkspoot (lin) mutant, characterized by cardiac laterality and mild dorsoventral patterning defects. Mapping of the lin mutation revealed an inactivating missense mutation in the Bmp receptor 1aa (bmpr1aa) gene. Embryos with a mutation in lin/bmpr1aa and a novel mutation in its paralogue, bmpr1ab, displayed a variety of dorsoventral and LR patterning defects with increasing severity corresponding with a decrease in bmpr1a dosage. In Bmpr1a-deficient embryos we observed bilateral expression of the Nodal-related gene, spaw, coupled with reduced expression of the Nodal-antagonist lefty1 in the midline. Using genetic models to induce or repress Bmp activity in combination with Nodal inhibition or activation, we found that Bmp and Nodal regulate lefty1 expression in the midline independently of each other. Furthermore, we observed that the regulation of lefty1 by Bmp signalling is required for its observed downregulation of Nodal activity in the LPM providing a novel explanation for this phenomenon. From these results we propose a two-step model in which Bmp regulates LR patterning. Prior to the onset of nodal flow and Nodal activation, Bmp is required to induce lefty1 expression in the midline. When nodal flow has been established and Nodal activity is apparent, both Nodal and Bmp independently are required for lefty1 expression to assure unilateral Nodal activation and correct LR patterning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS Genetics
Journal publication date2011

ID: 323745