Ret signalling integrates a craniofacial muscle module during development


An appropriate organisation of muscles is crucial for their function, yet it is not known how functionally related muscles are coordinated with each other during development. In this study, we show that the development of a subset of functionally related head muscles in the zebrafish is regulated by Ret tyrosine kinase signalling. Three genes in the Ret pathway (gfra3, artemin2 and ret) are required specifically for the development of muscles attaching to the opercular bone (gill cover), but not other adjacent muscles. In animals lacking Ret or Gfra3 function, myogenic gene expression is reduced in forming opercular muscles, but not in non-opercular muscles derived from the same muscle anlagen. These animals have a normal skeleton with small or missing opercular muscles and tightly closed mouths. Myogenic defects correlate with a highly restricted expression of artn2, gfra3 and ret in mesenchymal cells in and around the forming opercular muscles. ret(+) cells become restricted to the forming opercular muscles and a loss of Ret signalling results in reductions of only these, but not adjacent, muscles, revealing a specific role of Ret in a subset of head muscles. We propose that Ret signalling regulates myogenesis in head muscles in a modular manner and that this is achieved by restricting Ret function to a subset of muscle precursors.

Journal details

Journal Development
Volume 138
Issue number 10
Pages 2015-2024
Publication date