• cranial neural crest cells;
  • palatal skeleton;
  • zebrafish;
  • anterior neurocranium;
  • gene regulatory network;
  • fate mapping


Human palatal clefting is debilitating and difficult to rectify surgically. Animal models enhance our understanding of palatogenesis and are essential in strategies designed to ameliorate palatal malformations in humans. Recent studies have shown that the zebrafish palate, or anterior neurocranium, is under similar genetic control to the amniote palatal skeleton. We extensively analyzed palatogenesis in zebrafish to determine the similarity of gene expression and function across vertebrates. By 36 hours postfertilization (hpf) palatogenic cranial neural crest cells reside in homologous regions of the developing face compared with amniote species. Transcription factors and signaling molecules regulating mouse palatogenesis are expressed in similar domains during palatogenesis in zebrafish. Functional investigation of a subset of these genes, fgf10a, tgfb2, pax9, and smad5 revealed their necessity in zebrafish palatogenesis. Collectively, these results suggest that the gene regulatory networks regulating palatogenesis may be conserved across vertebrate species, demonstrating the utility of zebrafish as a model for palatogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 240:2204–2220, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.