Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a rare congenital disease characterized by red cell aplasia and craniofacial abnormalities. Ribosomal protein genes are often mutated in patients with this disease, but the mechanism of action is still being investigated. To elucidate the effect of mutations in ribosomal proteins, we are studying a zebrafish rps29 mutant with hematopoietic and endothelial defects. Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in rps29-/- embryos are significantly decreased, as assayed by runx1 and cmyb expression. Although the aorta and posterior cardinal vein form in the mutant, intersomitic vessel formation is affected. To test whether decreased p53 levels can rescue these defects, we crossed fish with mutated p53 into the rps29 background. In rps29-/-;p53-/- embryos, the vascular and HSC phenotypes are rescued, demonstrating that p53 may be required for these effects of rps29 knockdown. We performed a microarray comparing rps29-/- embryos and their siblings to identify genes that are differentially expressed in the mutant. Using gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), we determined that the list of genes up-regulated in the rps29 mutant is enriched for genes up-regulated by p53 in response to irradiation. Many of the genes identified have known roles in apoptosis and stress response. We have also identified genes whose expression correlates with the number of wildtype copies of rps29. Orthopedia homolog a (otpa), which is specifically expressed in forebrain and hindbrain tissues at 24 hours post fertilization (hpf), is decreased in heterozygous siblings and further decreased in homozygous siblings. In addition, p53 knockdown partially increases otpa levels in the mutant. These data support a model where p53 activation is one of the critical downstream mediators of rps29 knockdown in several tissues, but the mechanism of tissue specificity remains unclear. The otpa phenotype suggests that regulation of some genes is dependent on rps29 levels. The zebrafish rps29 mutant will be a useful model for understanding how a decrease in ribosomal protein levels can cause specific defects in hematopoietic and neural tissues.
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