Chondroitin sulfates affect the formation of the segmental motor nerves in zebrafish embryos

Robert R. Bernhardt, Melitta Schachner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Chondroitin sulfates have been implicated in the promotion and in the inhibition of axon growth. In the zebrafish embryo, chondroitin sulfates are present at the interface of the somites and the notochord where spinal motor axons extend ventrally to establish the midsegmental ventral motor nerves. Injection of chondroitinase ABC prior to motor axon outgrowth effectively removed all chondroitin sulfate immunoreactivity and induced abnormal axonal outgrowth in many (39%) of the ventral motor nerves. The most common abnormality was the formation of side branches, approximately half of which extended posteriorly, the others anteriorly. The effect was specific to the removal of chondroitin sulfates, since injections of vehicle solution or of heparinase III did not affect the ventral motor nerves. Electron microscopic examination demonstrated that the injections caused no damage to spinal cord, somite, and notochord. This suggests that chondroitin sulfates normally constrain the outgrowth of the ventral motor nerves. Consistent with this hypothesis, injections of soluble chondroitin sulfates, either as a mixture or individually, led to truncated or missing ventral motor nerves. Truncations were most frequent after injection of chondroitin sulfate-B (up to 23%) while chondroitin sulfate-A had a lesser, and chondroitin sulfate-C no apparent, effect. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Axon guidance
  • Chondroitinase ABC
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Glycosaminoglycan
  • Heparinase
  • Proteoglycan
  • Recognition molecule
  • Somite


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