Characterisation of human craniofacial syndromes and studies in transgenic mice have demonstrated the requirement for Fgf signalling during morphogenesis of membrane bone of the cranium. Here, we report that Fgf activity is also required for development of the oro-pharyngeal skeleton, which develops first as cartilage with some elements subsequently becoming ossified. We show that inhibition of FGF receptor activity in the zebrafish embryo following neural crest emigration from the neural tube results in complete absence of neurocranial and pharyngeal cartilages. Moreover, this Fgf signal is required during a 6-h period soon after initiation of neural crest migration. The spatial and temporal expression of Fgf3 and Fgf8 in pharyngeal endoderm and ventral forebrain and its correlation with patterns of Fgf signalling activity in migrating neural crest makes them candidate regulators of cartilage development. Inhibition of Fgf3 results in the complete absence of cartilage elements that normally form in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth pharyngeal arches, while those of the first, second, and seventh arches are largely unaffected. Inhibition of Fgf8 alone has variable, but mild, effects. However, inhibition of both Fgf3 and Fgf8 together causes a complete absence of pharyngeal cartilages and the near-complete loss of the neurocranial cartilage. These data implicate Fgf3 and Fgf8 as key regulators of cartilage formation in the vertebrate head. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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