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Academia Sinica E-news No.357
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Twist in the Twin-tail: the Molecular Development Underlying Goldfish Caudal Fin Morphology
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Twist in the Twin-tail: the Molecular Development Underlying Goldfish Caudal Fin Morphology

         Researchers at the Marine Research Station, Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology have demonstrated that the twin tail of certain goldfish strains arises from a mutation in chordin, a gene related to dorsal-ventral patterning. The study was reported in Nature Communications on February 25.

         For centuries, breeders have maintained ornamental “twin tail” goldfish strains, in which the tail is split. However, very little is known about the molecular development and genetic background of this remarkable change in morphology. A recent study conducted by Dr. Gembu Abe, with the support of colleagues in the laboratory of Dr. Kinya G. Ota, demonstrated that the twin tail fins of certain goldfish strains are derived from a mutation in chordin, a gene known to be involved in dorsal-ventral patterning.

         Goldfish are closely related to zebrafish, a well-established model species for the study of molecular genetics and developmental biology in vertebrates. Members of the Ota lab report that dino/chordin zebrafish mutants exhibit similar phenotypes to twin-tail goldfish. Hypothesizing that chordin may contribute to the split tail, the group proceeded to identify that the goldfish genome contains two chordin genes, one of which contains a stop codon mutation. This stop codon mutation was found to be genetically linked with the twin-tail phenotype.

         The group confirmed that the stop codon is responsible for the twin tail by injecting wild-type (non-mutant) chordin gene mRNA into twin-tail goldfish embryos, thereby restoring (rescuing) the single tail phenotype. By analysing gene expression patterns, the group concluded that the mutation in the chordin gene ventralizes the early developmental process.

         Although other chordin mutants generally exhibit a low survival rate, this is not observed for twin-tail goldfish. Abe and colleagues suggest that the duplication of the chordin gene may have facilitated the survival of twin-tail goldfish, enabling their maintenance in the absence of sophisticated aquaria by breeders in Song and Ming dynasty China.

         “We believe that further study of the goldfish will provide insight into how developmental mechanisms can be modified by artificial selection” explains Dr. Kinya Ota.

         The full article entitled “The origin of the bifurcated axial skeletal system in the twin-tail goldfish” can be found at the Nature Communications website at: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140225/ncomms4360/full/ncomms4360.html  

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