Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Charles Sagerström, PhD


Homeobox Genes, Homeodomain Proteins, Zebrafish, Zebrafish Proteins, Embryonic Development, Nucleosomes, Developmental Gene Expression Regulation


Dissertations, UMMS; Genes, Homeobox; Homeodomain Proteins; Zebrafish; Zebrafish Proteins; Embryonic Development; Nucleosomes; Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental


Hox genes encode a conserved family of homeodomain containing transcription factors essential for metazoan development. The establishment of overlapping Hox expression domains specifies tissue identities along the anterior-posterior axis during early embryogenesis and is regulated by chromatin architecture and retinoic acid (RA). Here we present the role nucleosome positioning plays in hox activation during embryogenesis. Using four stages of early embryo development, we map nucleosome positions at 37 zebrafish hox promoters. We find nucleosome arrangement to be progressive, taking place over several stages independent of RA. This progressive change in nucleosome arrangement on invariant sequence suggests that trans-factors play an important role in organizing nucleosomes. To further test the role of trans-factors, we created hoxb1b and hoxb1a mutants to determine if the loss of either protein effected nucleosome positions at the promoter of a known target, hoxb1a. Characterization of these mutations identified hindbrain segmentation defects similar to targeted deletions of mouse orthologs Hoxa1 and Hoxb1 and zebrafish hoxb1b and hoxb1a morpholino (MO) loss-of-function experiments. However, we also identified differences in hindbrain segmentation as well as phenotypes in facial motor neuron migration and reticulospinal neuron formation not previously observed in the MO experiments. Finally, we find that nucleosomes at the hoxb1a promoter are positioned differently in hoxb1b-/- embryos compared to wild-type. Together, our data provides new insight into the roles of hoxb1b and hoxb1a in zebrafish hindbrain segmentation and reticulospinal neuron formation and indicates that nucleosome positioning at hox promoters is dynamic, depending on sequence specific factors such as Hox proteins.



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