A three-dimensional atlas of pituitary gland development in the zebrafish

Susan C. Chapman*, Arleen L. Sawitzke, Douglas Simon Campbell, Gary C. Schoenwolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The pituitary gland is unique to Chordates, with significant variation within this group, offering an excellent opportunity to increase insight into phylogenetic relationships within this phylum. The structure of the pituitary in adult Teleosts (class: Osteichthyes) is quite different from that in other chordates and is also variable among members of the class. Therefore, a complete description of the structure and development of the pituitary in members of this class is a critical component to our overall understanding of this gland. An obvious teleost model organism is the zebrafish, Danio rerio, as a significant amount of work has been done on the molecular control of pituitary development in this fish. However, very little work has been published on the morphological development of the pituitary in the zebrafish; the present study aims to fill this void. The pituitary develops from cells on the rostrodorsal portion of the head and reaches its final position, ventral to the hypothalamus, as the cephalic flexure occurs and the jaws and mouth form. The pituitary placode is juxtaposed to cells that will form the olfactory vesicles, the stomodeum, and the hatching gland. The volume of the pituitary is greatest at 24 hours post fertilization (hpf). From 24 to 120 hpf, the pituitary decreases in height and width as it undergoes convergent extension, increasing in length with the axis. The adenohypophysis is a morphologically distinct structure by 24 hpf, whereas the neurohypophysis remains indistinct until 72 hpf. The findings of this study correlate well with the available molecular data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-440
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jul 11
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenohypophysis
  • Anatomy
  • Forebrain
  • Morphology
  • Neurohypophysis
  • Stomodeum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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