Primary neurons that express the L2/HNK-1 carbohydrate during early development in the zebrafish

W. K. Metcalfe, P. Z. Myers, B. Trevarrow, M. B. Bass, C. B. Kimmel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


In zebrafish, many nerve pathways in both the CNS and periphery are pioneered by a small and relatively simple set of 'primary' neurons that arise in the early embryo. We now have used monoclonal antibodies to show that, as they develop, primary neurons of several functional classes express on their surfaces the L2/HNK-1 tetrasaccharide that is associated with a variety of cell surface adhesion molecules. We have studied the early labeling patterns of these neurons, as well as some non-neural cells, and found that the time of onset and intensity of immunolabeling vary specifically according to cell type. The first neuronal expresion is by Rohon-Beard and trigeminal ganglion neurons, both of which are primary sensory neurons that mediate touch sensitivity. These cells express the epitope very strongly on their growth cones and axons, permitting study of their development unobscured by labeling in other cells. Both types initiate axogenesis at the same early time, and appear to be the first neurons in the embryo to do so. Their peripheral neurites display similar branching patterns and have similar distinctive growth cone morphologies. Their central axons grow at the same rate along the same longitudinal fiber pathway, but in opposite directions and where they meet they appear to fasciculate with one another. The similarities suggest that Rohon-Beard and trigeminal ganglion neurons, despite their different positions, share a common program of early development. Immunolabeling is also specifically present on a region of the brain surface where the newly arriving trigeminal sensory axons will enter the brain. Further, the trigeminal expression of the antigen persists in growth cones during the time that they contact an individually identified central target neuron, the Mauthner cell, which also expresses the epitope. These findings provide descriptive evidence for possible roles of L2/HNK-1 immunoreactive molecules in axonal growth and synaptogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-504
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Golgi
  • HNK-1
  • Mauthner
  • Rohon-Beard
  • Trigeminal
  • adhesion
  • guidance


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