Distribution of the transcription factor islet-1 in the central nervous system of nonteleost actinopterygian fish: Relationshipwith cholinergic and catecholaminergic systems

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Islet-1 (Isl1) is one of the most conserved transcription factors in the evolution of vertebrates, due to its continuing involvement in such important functions as the differentiation of motoneurons, among other essential roles in cell fate in the forebrain. Although its functions are thought to be similar in all vertebrates, the knowledge about the conservation of its expression pattern in the central nervous system goes as far as teleosts, leaving the basal groups of actinopterygian fishes overlooked, despite their important phylogenetic position. In order to assess the extent of its conservation among vertebrates, we studied its expression pattern in the central nervous system of selected nonteleost actinopterygian fishes. By means of immunohistochemical techniques, we analyzed the Isl1 expression in the brain, spinal cord, and sensory ganglia of the cranial nerves of young adult specimens of the cladistian species Polypterus senegalus and Erpetoichthys calabaricus, the chondrostean Acipenser ruthenus, and the holostean Lepisosteus oculatus. We also detected the presence of the transcription factor Orthopedia and the enzymes tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) to better locate all the immunoreactive structures in the different brain areas and to reveal the possible coexpression with Isl1. Numerous conserved features in the expression pattern of Isl1 were observed in these groups of fishes, such as populations of cells in the subpallial nuclei, preoptic area, subparaventricular and tuberal hypothalamic regions, prethalamus, epiphysis, cranial motor nuclei and sensory ganglia of the cranial nerves, and the ventral horn of the spinal cord. Double labeling of TH and Isl1 was observed in cells of the preoptic area, the subparaventricular and tuberal hypothalamic regions, and the prethalamus, while virtually all motoneurons in the hindbrain and the spinal cord coexpressed ChAT and Isl1. Altogether, these results show the high degree of conservation of the expression pattern of the transcription factor Isl1, not only among fish, but in the subsequent evolution of vertebrates.