The identification of genes with unique and essential functions in the development of the zebrafish, Danio rerio

P Haffter, M Granato, M Brand, M C Mullins, M Hammerschmidt, D A Kane, J Odenthal, F J M vanEeden, Y J Jiang, C P Heisenberg, R N Kelsh, Makoto Furutani-Seiki, E Vogelsang, D Beuchle, U Schach, C Fabian, C NussleinVolhard

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In a large-scale screen, we isolated mutants displaying a specific visible phenotype in embryos or early larvae of the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Males were mutagenized with ethylnitrosourea (ENU) and F-2 families of single pair matings between sibling F-l fish, heterozygous for a mutagenized genome, were raised. Egg lays were obtained from several crosses between F-2 siblings, resulting in scoring of 3857 mutagenized genomes. F-3 progeny were scored at the second, third and sixth day of development, using a stereomicroscope. In a subsequent screen, fixed embryos were analyzed for correct retinotectal projection. A total of 4264 mutants were identified. Two thirds of the mutants displaying rather general abnormalities were eventually discarded. We kept and characterized 1163 mutants. In complementation crosses performed between mutants with similar phenotypes, 894 mutants have been assigned to 372 genes. The average allele frequency is 2.4. We identified genes involved in early development, notochord, brain, spinal cord, somites, muscles, heart, circulation, blood, skin, fin, eye, otic vesicle, jaw and branchial arches, pigment pattern, pigment formation, gut, liver, motility and touch response. Our collection contains alleles of almost all previously described zebrafish mutants. From the allele frequencies and other considerations we estimate that the 372 genes defined by the mutants probably represent more than half of all genes that could have been discovered using the criteria of our screen. Here we give an overview of the spectrum of mutant phenotypes obtained, and discuss the limits and the potentials of a genetic saturation screen in the zebrafish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • vertebrate development
  • 'tubingen' mutants'
  • ENU mutagenesis
  • zebrafish


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