Tgfβ3 regulation of chondrogenesis and osteogenesis in zebrafish is mediated through formation and survival of a subpopulation of the cranial neural crest

Felicia S H Cheah, Christoph Winkler, Ethylin Wang Jabs, Samuel S. Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Zebrafish tgfβ3 is strongly expressed in a subpopulation of the migrating neural crest cells, developing pharyngeal arches and neurocranial cartilages. To study the regulatory role of tgfβ3 in head skeletal formation, we knocked down tgfβ3 in zebrafish and found impaired craniofacial chondrogenesis, evident by malformations in selected neurocranial and pharyngeal arch cartilages. Over-expressing tgfβ3 in embryos resulted in smaller craniofacial cartilages without any gross malformations. These defects suggest that tgfβ3 is required for normal chondrogenesis. To address the cellular mechanisms that lead to the observed malformations, we analyzed cranial neural crest development in morphant and tgfβ3 over-expressing fish. We observed reduced pre-migratory and migratory cranial neural crest, the precursors of the neurocranial cartilage and pharyngeal arches, in tgfβ3 knockdown embryos. In contrast, only the migratory neural crest was reduced in embryos over-expressing tgfβ3. This raised the possibility that the reduced number of cranial neural crest cells is a result of increased apoptosis. Consistent with this, markedly elevated TUNEL staining in the midbrain and hindbrain, and developing pharyngeal arch region was observed in morphants, while tgfβ3 over-expressing embryos showed marginally increased apoptosis in the developing pharyngeal arch region. We propose that both Tgfβ3 suppression and over-expression result in reduced chondrocyte and osteocyte formation, but to different degrees and through different mechanisms. In Tgfβ3 suppressed embryos, this is due to impaired formation and survival of a subpopulation of cranial neural crest cells through markedly increased apoptosis in regions containing the cranial neural crest cells, while in Tgfβ3 over-expressing embryos, the milder phenotype is also due to a slightly elevated apoptosis in these regions. Therefore, proper cranial neural crest formation and survival, and ultimately craniofacial chondrogenesis and osteogenesis, are dependent on tight regulation of Tgfβ3 protein levels in zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-344
Number of pages16
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Chondrogenesis
  • Cranial neural crest
  • Differentiation
  • Neurocranial cartilage
  • Osteogenesis
  • Pharyngeal arch
  • Proliferation
  • Survival
  • Tgfβ3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Embryology


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