To learn how neural segments are structured in a simple vertebrate, we have characterized the embryonic zebrafish hindbrain with a library of monoclonal antibodies. Two regions repeat in an alternating pattern along a series of seven segments. One, the neuromere centers, contains the first basal plate neurons to develop and the first neuropil. The other region, surrounding the segment boundaries, contains the first neurons to develop in the alar plate. The projection patterns of these neurons differ: those in the segment centers have descending axons, while those in the border regions form ventral commissures. A row of glial fiber bundles forms a curtain-like structure between each center and border region. Specific features of the individual hindbrain segments in the series arise within this general framework. We suggest that a cryptic simplicity underlies the eventual complex structure that develops from this region of the CNS.
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