In the vertebrate body, a metameric structure is present along the anterior–posterior axis. Zebrafish tbx6−/− larvae, in which somite boundaries do not form during embryogenesis, were shown to exhibit abnormal skeletal morphology such as rib, neural arch and hemal arch. In this study, we investigated the role of somite patterning in the formation of anterior vertebrae and ribs in more detail. Using three-dimensional computed tomography scans, we found that anterior vertebrae including the Weberian apparatus were severely affected in tbx6−/− larvae. In addition, pleural ribs of tbx6 mutants exhibited severe defects in the initial ossification, extension of ossification, and formation of parapophyses. Two-colour staining revealed that bifurcation of ribs was caused by fusion or branching of ribs in tbx6−/−. The parapophyses in tbx6−/− juvenile fish showed irregular positioning to centra and abnormal attachment to ribs. Furthermore, we found that the ossification of the distal portion of ribs proceeded along myotome boundaries even in irregularly positioned myotome boundaries. These results provide evidence of the contribution of somite patterning to the formation of the Weberian apparatus and rib in zebrafish.
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