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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Distinct roles of Shh and Fgf signaling in regulating cell proliferation during zebrafish pectoral fin development

Sergey V Prykhozhij and Carl J Neumann*

Author affiliations

Developmental Biology Unit, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Meyerhofstrasse 1, Heidelberg, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Developmental Biology 2008, 8:91  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-8-91

Published: 23 September 2008

Abstract

Background

Cell proliferation in multicellular organisms must be coordinated with pattern formation. The major signaling pathways directing pattern formation in the vertebrate limb are well characterized, and we have therefore chosen this organ to examine the interaction between proliferation and patterning. Two important signals for limb development are members of the Hedgehog (Hh) and Fibroblast Growth Factor (Fgf) families of secreted signaling proteins. Sonic hedgehog (Shh) directs pattern formation along the anterior/posterior axis of the limb, whereas several Fgfs in combination direct pattern formation along the proximal/distal axis of the limb.

Results

We used the genetic and pharmacological amenability of the zebrafish model system to dissect the relative importance of Shh and Fgf signaling in regulating proliferation during development of the pectoral fin buds. In zebrafish mutants disrupting the shh gene, proliferation in the pectoral fin buds is initially normal, but later is strongly reduced. Correlating with this reduction, Fgf signaling is normal at early stages, but is later lost in shh mutants. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of Hh signaling for short periods has little effect on either Fgf signaling, or on expression of G1- and S-phase cell-cycle genes, whereas long periods of inhibition lead to the downregulation of both. In contrast, even short periods of pharmacological inhibition of Fgf signaling lead to strong disruption of proliferation in the fin buds, without affecting Shh signaling. To directly test the ability of Fgf signaling to regulate proliferation in the absence of Shh signaling, we implanted beads soaked with Fgf protein into shh mutant fin buds. We find that Fgf-soaked beads rescue proliferation in the pectoral find buds of shh mutants, indicating that Fgf signaling is sufficient to direct proliferation in zebrafish fin buds in the absence of Shh.

Conclusion

Previous studies have shown that both Shh and Fgf signaling are crucial for outgrowth of the vertebrate limb. The results presented here show that the role of Shh in this process is indirect, and is mediated by its effect on Fgf signaling. By contrast, the activity of the Fgf pathway affects proliferation directly and independently of its effect on Shh. These results show that Fgf signaling is of primary importance in directing outgrowth of the limb bud, and clarify the role of the Shh-Fgf feedback loop in regulating proliferation.