Bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signaling plays a pivotal role in dorsal-ventral (DV) patterning in vertebrate embryos. Piwi proteins are required for germline and stem cell development. Our previous study demonstrated that Zili, zebrafish Piwil2, inhibits transforming growth factor (TGF)-βsignaling by interacting with Smad4, suggesting a role for zili in Bmp signaling. In the present study, zili-MO or zili mRNA was microinjected into one-cell embryos to knock down or elevate the expression of zili to study the role of zili during early zebrafish embryogenesis. Knockdown of zili inhibited the expression of dorsal marker genes, and enhanced that of ventral marker genes. In contrast, overexpression of zili promoted expression of dorsal marker genes, while it inhibited ventral marker genes. These results suggest that zili regulates DV patterning. The influence of zili on the Bmp pathway was further explored. Knockdown of zili resulted in higher expression levels of bmp2b, and bmp4, the Bmp signaling ligands, and reduced expression of chordin (chd), noggin (nog1), and follistatin (fst), which encode BMP antagonists. Meanwhile, overexpression of zili produced opposite effects. In conclusion, our results indicate that zili regulates dorsal-ventral patterning by antagonizing Bmp signaling during early embryogenesis in zebrafish.
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