The spine gives structural support for the adult body, protects the spinal cord, and provides muscle attachment for moving through the environment. The development and maturation of the spine and its physiology involve the integration of multiple musculoskeletal tissues including bone, cartilage, and fibrocartilaginous joints, as well as innervation and control by the nervous system. One of the most common disorders of the spine in human is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), which is characterized by the onset of an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine of <10° around adolescence, in otherwise healthy children. The genetic basis of AIS is largely unknown. Systematic genome-wide mutagenesis screens for embryonic phenotypes in zebrafish have been instrumental in the understanding of early patterning of embryonic tissues necessary to build and pattern the embryonic spine. However, the mechanisms required for postembryonic maturation and homeostasis of the spine remain poorly understood. Here we report the results from a small-scale forward genetic screen for adult-viable recessive and dominant zebrafish mutations, leading to overt morphological abnormalities of the adult spine. Germline mutations induced with N-ethyl N-nitrosourea (ENU) were transmitted and screened for dominant phenotypes in 1229 F1 animals, and subsequently bred to homozygosity in F3 families; from these, 314 haploid genomes were screened for adult-viable recessive phenotypes affecting general body shape. We cumulatively found 40 adult-viable (3 dominant and 37 recessive) mutations each leading to a defect in the morphogenesis of the spine. The largest phenotypic group displayed larval onset axial curvatures, leading to whole-body scoliosis without vertebral dysplasia in adult fish. Pairwise complementation testing of 16 mutant lines within this phenotypic group revealed at least 9 independent mutant loci. Using massively-parallel whole genome or whole exome sequencing and meiotic mapping we defined the molecular identity of several loci for larval onset whole-body scoliosis in zebrafish. We identified a new mutation in the skolios/kinesin family member 6 (kif6) gene, causing neurodevelopmental and ependymal cilia defects in mouse and zebrafish. We also report multiple recessive alleles of the scospondin and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 9 (adamts9) genes, which all display defects in spine morphogenesis. Our results provide evidence of monogenic traits that are essential for normal spine development in zebrafish, that may help to establish new candidate risk loci for spine disorders in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-33
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Biology
StatePublished - Mar 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Postembryonic screen for mutations affecting spine development in zebrafish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this