PLoS ONE 16 (8) e0255953 [2021-08-19; online 2021-08-19]
The transcription factor Nkx3.2 (Bapx1) is an important chondrocyte maturation inhibitor. Previous Nkx3.2 knockdown and overexpression studies in non-mammalian gnathostomes have focused on its role in primary jaw joint development, while the function of this gene in broader skeletal development is not fully described. We generated a mutant allele of nkx3.2 in zebrafish with CRISPR/Cas9 and applied a range of techniques to characterize skeletal phenotypes at developmental stages from larva to adult, revealing loss of the jaw joint, fusions in bones of the occiput, morphological changes in the Weberian apparatus, and the loss or deformation of bony elements derived from basiventral cartilages of the vertebrae. Axial phenotypes are reminiscent of Nkx3.2 knockout in mammals, suggesting that the function of this gene in axial skeletal development is ancestral to osteichthyans. Our results highlight the broad role of nkx3.2 in zebrafish skeletal development and its context-specific functions in different skeletal elements.