M André, S Ando, C Ballagny, M Durliat, G Poupard, C Briançon and P J Babin
UPRESA 8080 CNRS, Biologie du Développement des Poissons, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France.
ABSTRACT Intracellular fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are small and highly conserved cytoplasmic proteins that bind long-chain fatty acids and other hydrophobic ligands. We have examined, as a model for studying intestinal epithelial cell differentiation, the cell-specific and spatio-temporal expression of intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (i-fabp) gene during zebrafish larval development. After molecular cloning of zebrafish I-FABP cDNA, whole-mount in situ hybridization analysis revealed that i-fabp is expressed in the intestinal tube around day 3 postfertilization. By day 4, highest level of i-fabp transcript is encountered in the proximal columnar epithelium. From day 5 onwards, i-fabp is strongly expressed in the anterior intestine and its rostral expansion, slightly expressed in the esophagus mucosa and rectum, while no mRNA could be detected in the posterior intestine. Therefore, the regional differentiation of the intestine precedes first feeding and complete yolk resorption. I-fabp expression in the anterior intestine of the fed larvae is correlated with an intracellular storage of lipid droplets in the enterocytes and the massive synthesis of very low-density lipoprotein particles. In conclusion, the cephalocaudal expression pattern of i-fabp demarcates early during zebrafish gut morphogenesis the anterior fat absorbing to posterior cells of the intestine. This gene could be used as a marker for screening for mutations that affect the events of intestinal epithelial differentiation, cephalocaudal patterning, and asymmetric gut looping morphogenesis.