The notochord is a midline mesodermal structure with an essential patterning function in all vertebrate embryos. Zebrafish floating head (flh) mutants lack a notochord, but develop with prechordal plate and other mesodermal derivatives, indicating that flh functions specifically in notochord development. We show that floating head is the zebrafish homologue of Xnot, a homeobox gene expressed in the amphibian organizer and notochord. We propose that flh regulates notochord precursor cell fate.
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