Serum response factor (SRF) is a single copy, highly conserved transcription factor that governs the expression of hundreds of genes involved with actin cytoskeletal organization, cellular growth and signaling, neuronal circuitry and muscle differentiation. Zebrafish have emerged as a facile and inexpensive vertebrate model to delineate gene expression, regulation, and function, and yet the study of SRF in this animal has been virtually unexplored. Here, we report the existence of two srf genes in zebrafish, with partially overlapping patterns of expression in 3 and 7 day old developing animals. The mammalian ortholog (srf1) encodes for a 520 amino acid protein expressed in adult vascular and visceral smooth muscle cells, cardiac and skeletal muscle, as well as neuronal cells. The second zebrafish srf gene (srf2), encoding for a presumptive protein of only 314 amino acids, is transcribed at lower levels and appears to be less widely expressed across adult tissues. Both srf genes are induced by the SRF coactivator myocardin and attenuated with a short hairpin RNA to mammalian SRF. Promoter studies with srf1 reveal conserved CArG boxes that are the targets of SRF-myocardin in embryonic zebrafish cells. These results reveal that SRF was duplicated in the zebrafish genome and that its protein expression in all three muscle cell types is highly conserved across vertebrate animals suggesting an ancient code for transcriptional regulation of genes unique to muscle cell lineages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology