Redundant activities of Tfap2a and Tfap2c are required for neural crest induction and development of other non-neural ectoderm derivatives in zebrafish embryos.
A knockdown study suggested that transcription factor AP-2 alpha (Tfap2a) is required for neural crest induction in frog embryos. However, because Tfap2a is expressed in neural crest and in presumptive epidermis, a source of signals that induce neural crest, it was unclear whether this requirement is cell autonomous. Moreover, neural crest induction occurs normally in zebrafish tfap2a and mouse Tcfap2a mutant embryos, so it was unclear if a requirement for Tfap2a in this process has been evolutionarily conserved. Here we show that zebrafish tfap2c, encoding AP-2 gamma (Tfap2c), is expressed in non-neural ectoderm including transiently in neural crest. Inhibition of tfap2c with antisense oligonucleotides does not visibly perturb development. However, simultaneous inhibition of tfap2a and tfap2c utterly prevents neural crest induction, supporting a conserved role for Tfap2-type activity in neural crest induction. Transplant studies suggest that this role is cell-autonomous. In addition, in tfap2a/tfap2c doubly deficient embryos cranial placode derivatives are reduced, although gene expression characteristic of pre-placodal domain is normal. Unexpectedly, Rohon-Beard sensory neurons, which previous studies indicated are derived from the same precursor population as neural crest, are reduced by less than half in such embryos, implying a non-neural crest origin for a subset of them.