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Fer kinase, a protein involved in the regulation of cell-cell adhesion and proliferation, has been shown to be required during invertebrate development and has been implicated in leukemia, gastric cancer, and liver cancer. However, in vivo roles for Fer during vertebrate development have remained elusive. In this study, we bridge the gap between the invertebrate and vertebrate realms by showing that Fer kinase is required during zebrafish embryogenesis for normal hematopoiesis and vascular organization with distinct kinase dependent and independent functions. In situ hybridization, quantitative PCR and fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) analyses revealed an increase in both erythrocyte numbers and gene expression patterns as well as a decrease in the organization of vasculature endothelial cells. Furthermore, rescue experiments have shown that the regulation of hematopoietic proliferation is dependent on Fer kinase activity, while vascular organizing events only require Fer in a kinase-independent manner. Our data suggest a model in which separate kinase dependent and independent functions of Fer act in conjunction with Notch activity in a divergent manner for hematopoietic determination and vascular tissue organization.

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