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The RNA helicase Ddx52 functions as a growth switch in juvenile zebrafish|Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica


The RNA helicase Ddx52 functions as a growth switch in juvenile zebrafish


Vertebrate animals usually display robust growth trajectories during juvenile stages, and reversible suspension of this growth momentum by a single genetic determinant has not been reported. Here, we report a single genetic factor that is essential for juvenile growth in zebrafish. Using a forward genetic screen, we recovered a temperature-sensitive allele, pan (after Peter Pan), that suspends whole-organism growth at juvenile stages. Remarkably, even after growth is halted for a full 8-week period, pan mutants are able to resume a robust growth trajectory after release from the restrictive temperature, eventually growing into fertile adults without apparent adverse phenotypes. Positional cloning and complementation assays revealed that pan encodes a probable ATP-dependent RNA helicase (DEAD-Box Helicase 52; ddx52) that maintains the level of 47S precursor ribosomal RNA. Furthermore, genetic silencing of ddx52 and pharmacological inhibition of bulk RNA transcription similarly suspend the growth of flies, zebrafish and mice. Our findings reveal evidence that safe, reversible pauses of juvenile growth can be mediated by targeting the activity of a single gene, and that its pausing mechanism has high evolutionary conservation.

Funding sources: Academia Sinica and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan; the National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States.