Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Robert Tombes


Coordinated inductive and morphogenetic processes of gastrulation establish the zebrafish body plan. Gastrulation includes massive cell rearrangements to generate the three germ layers and shape the embryonic body. Three modes of cell migration must occur during vertebrate gastrulation and include: epiboly, internalization of the presumptive mesendoderm and convergent extension (C&E). C&E movements narrow the germ layers mediolaterally (convergence) and elongate them anteroposteriorly (extension) to define the embryonic axis. The molecular mechanisms regulating coordinated cell migrations remain poorly understand and studying these has become of great interest to researchers. Understanding cell migration during development is highly relevant to a number of human physiological processes. Abnormal cell migration during early development can lead to congenital defects, with improper cell migration during adult life potentially leading to the invasion and metastasis of cancer. By studying cell migration events, in vivo, new insights are to be found to both the function and malfunction of key embryonic and postembryonic migratory events. The non-canonical Wnt pathway has been identified as an evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway, regulating C&E cell movements during vertebrate gastrulation. With the absence of the non-canonical Wnts (ncWnts), Wnt5 and Wnt11, during zebrafish development leading to a shorter and broader body axis with defects in elongation during segmentation resulting in undulation of the notochord. While it is clear ncWnts are necessary for C&E, many of the downstream effectors regulating these cell movements have not been defined. Previous research has shown that activation of ncWnt signaling through Wnt5 or Wnt11 results in an increase in intracellular Ca2+ during zebrafish gastrulation. To determine if the Ca2+/Calmodulin-dependent protein kinase, CaMK-II, is a potential downstream target of the Ca2+ increases during ncWnt activation, CaMK-II’s role in C&E was assessed. This study identifies camk2b1 and camk2g1 as being necessary for C&E movements, and outlines the phenotype of the overall embryo as well as individual cells of camk2b1 and camk2g1 morphants. The defects of CaMK-II morphants are specifically linked to alterations in C&E cell movements, while cell fate and proliferation are unaffected. An increase in CaMK-II activation during gastrulation produces similar C&E defects, demonstrating the specificity of CaMK-II’s activation in facilitating these highly coordinated cellular movements. We show that CaMK-II is working downstream Wnt 11 and in parallel to JNK signaling during gastrulation C&E. Overall, these data identify CaMK-II as a required component of C&E movements during zebrafish development, downstream ncWnt signaling, and altering cell migration through changes in cell shape


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2013

Included in

Life Sciences Commons