Zebrafish and medaka: model organisms for a comparative developmental approach of brain asymmetry
Authors: Signore IA, Guerrero N, Loosli F, Colombo A, Villalón A, Wittbrodt J, Concha ML
CellNetworks People: Wittbrodt Joachim
Journal: Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Apr 12;364(1519):991-1003. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0260

Comparison between related species is a successful approach to uncover conserved and divergent principles of development. Here, we studied the pattern of epithalamic asymmetry in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and medaka (Oryzias latipes), two related teleost species with 115-200 Myr of independent evolution. We found that these species share a strikingly conserved overall pattern of asymmetry in the parapineal-habenular-interpeduncular system. Nodal signalling exhibits comparable spatial and temporal asymmetric expressions in the presumptive epithalamus preceding the development of morphological asymmetries. Neuroanatomical asymmetries consist of left-sided asymmetric positioning and connectivity of the parapineal organ, enlargement of neuropil in the left habenula compared with the right habenula and segregation of left-right habenular efferents along the dorsoventral axis of the interpeduncular nucleus. Despite the overall conservation of asymmetry, we observed heterotopic changes in the topology of parapineal efferent connectivity, heterochronic shifts in the timing of developmental events underlying the establishment of asymmetry and divergent degrees of canalization of embryo laterality. We offer new tools for developmental time comparison among species and propose, for each of these transformations, novel hypotheses of ontogenic mechanisms that explain interspecies variations that can be tested experimentally. Together, these findings highlight the usefulness of zebrafish and medaka as comparative models to study the developmental mechanisms of epithalamic asymmetry in vertebrates.