Int. J. Dev. Biol. 54: 573 - 583 (2010)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.092922lh
© UBC Press

Insulin-like growth factor-2 regulates early neural and cardiovascular system development in zebrafish embryos

Lori Hartnett1, Catherine Glynn1, Catherine M. Nolan2, Maura Grealy3 and Lucy Byrnes*,1

1Department of Biochemistry, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland 2School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Ireland and 3Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

ABSTRACT The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) family is essential for normal embryonic growth and development and it is highly conserved through vertebrate evolution. However, the roles that the individual members of the IGF family play in embryonic development have not been fully elucidated. This study focuses on the role of IGF-2 in zebrafish embryonic development. Two igf-2 genes, igf-2a and igf-2b, are present in the zebrafish genome. Antisense morpholinos were designed to knock down both igf-2 genes. The neural and cardiovascular defects in IGF-2 morphant embryos were then examined further using wholemount in situ hybridisation, TUNEL analysis and O-dianisidine staining. Knockdown of igf-2a or igf-2b resulted in ventralised embryos with reduced growth, reduced eyes, disrupted brain structures and a disrupted cardiovascular system, with igf-2b playing a more significant role in development. During gastrulation, igf-2a and igf-2b are required for development of anterior neural structures and for regulation of genes critical to dorsal-ventral patterning. As development proceeds, igf-2a and igf-2b play anti-apoptotic roles. Gene expression analysis demonstrates that igf-2a and igf-2b play overlapping roles in angiogenesis and cardiac outflow tract development. Igf-2b is specifically required for cardiac valve development and cardiac looping. Injection of a dominant negative IGF-1 receptor led to similar defects in angiogenesis and cardiac valve development, indicating IGF-2 signals through this receptor to regulate cardiovascular development. This is the first study describing two functional igf-2 genes in zebrafish. This work demonstrates that igf-2a and igf-2b are critical to neural and cardiovascular development in zebrafish embryos. The finding that igf-2a and igf-2b do not act exclusively in a redundant manner may explain why both genes have been stably maintained in the genome.

Keywords:

zebrafish, IGF-2, neural, cardiovascular, development

*Corresponding author e-mail: lucy.byrnes@nuigalway.ie