Distinct regulatory networks control the development of macrophages of different origins in zebrafish

Tao Yu, Weilin Guo, Ye Tian, Jin Xu, Jiahao Chen, Li Li and Zilong Wen

Key Points

  • Pu.1 and Spi-b form vertical and paralleled regulatory networks to orchestrate RBI- and VDA-born macrophage development, respectively.

  • The vertical and paralleled Pu.1−Spi-b regulatory networks control the development of RBI- and VDA-born macrophages by regulating Irf8.


Macrophages are key components of the innate immune system and play pivotal roles in immune response, organ development, and tissue homeostasis. Studies in mice and zebrafish have shown that tissue-resident macrophages derived from different hematopoietic origins manifest distinct developmental kinetics and colonization potential, yet the genetic programs controlling the development of macrophages of different origins remain incompletely defined. In this study, we use zebrafish, where tissue-resident macrophages arise from the rostral blood island (RBI) and ventral wall of dorsal aorta (VDA), the zebrafish hematopoietic tissue equivalents to the mouse yolk sac and aorta-gonad-mesonephros for myelopoiesis, to address this issue. We show that RBI- and VDA-born macrophages are orchestrated by distinctive regulatory networks formed by the E-twenty-six (Ets) transcription factors Pu.1 and Spi-b, the zebrafish ortholog of mouse spleen focus forming virus proviral integration oncogene B (SPI-B), and the helix-turn-helix DNA-binding domain containing protein Irf8. Epistatic studies document that during RBI macrophage development, Pu.1 acts upstream of Spi-b, which, upon induction by Pu.1, partially compensates the function of Pu.1. In contrast, Pu.1 and Spi-b act in parallel and cooperatively to regulate the development of VDA-derived macrophages. Interestingly, these two distinct regulatory networks orchestrate the RBI- and VDA-born macrophage development largely by regulating a common downstream gene, Irf8. Our study indicates that macrophages derived from different origins are governed by distinct genetic networks formed by the same repertoire of myeloid-specific transcription factors.

  • Submitted July 12, 2016.
  • Accepted November 29, 2016.
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