During vertebrate development, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) is activated by growth factors such as fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and it regulates the formation of tissues/organs including eyes, brains, somites, limbs, and inner ears. However, an experimental system to monitor ERK activity dynamics in the entire body of the vertebrate embryo is lacking. We recently studied ERK activity dynamics in the pre-somitic mesoderm of living zebrafish embryos injected with mRNAs encoding a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based ERK biosensor. In this study, transgenic zebrafish stably and ubiquitously expressing the ERK biosensor were generated to monitor ERK activity dynamics throughout embryonic development. The system allowed the identification of ERK activation domains in embryos from the late blastula to the late segmentation stage, consistent with immunostaining patterns obtained using anti-phosphorylated ERK antibody. A spatiotemporal map of ERK activity in the entire body during zebrafish embryogenesis was generated, and previously unidentified activation dynamics and ERK domains were identified. The proposed system is the first reported method to monitor ERK activity dynamics during vertebrate embryogenesis, providing insight into the role of ERK activity in normal and abnormal development in living vertebrate embryos.
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