• enteric nervous system;
  • zebrafish;
  • gastrointestinal tract motility;
  • neural crest;
  • genetic screen;
  • mutation


An intact enteric nervous system is required for normal gastrointestinal tract function. Several human conditions result from decreased innervation by enteric neurons; however, the genetic basis of enteric nervous system development and function is incompletely understood. In an effort to increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying enteric nervous system development, we screened mutagenized zebrafish for changes in the number or distribution of enteric neurons. We also established a motility assay and rescreened mutants to learn whether enteric neuron number is correlated with gastrointestinal motility in zebrafish. We describe mutations isolated in our screen that affect enteric neurons specifically, as well as mutations that affect other neural crest derivatives or have pleiotropic effects. We show a correlation between the severity of enteric neuron loss and gastrointestinal motility defects. This screen provides biological tools that serve as the basis for future mechanistic studies. Developmental Dynamics 236:118–127, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.