Genetics and evolution of pigment patterns in fish.

  title={Genetics and evolution of pigment patterns in fish.},
  author={Robert N. Kelsh},
  journal={Pigment cell research},
  volume={17 4},
  • R. Kelsh
  • Published 1 August 2004
  • Biology, Environmental Science
  • Pigment cell research
Vertebrate pigment patterns are both beautiful and fascinating. In mammals and birds, pigment patterns are likely to reflect the spatial regulation of melanocyte physiology, via alteration of the colour-type of the melanin synthesized. In fish, however, pigment patterns predominantly result from positioning of differently coloured chromatophores. Theoretically, pigment cell patterning might result from long-range patterning mechanisms, from local environmental cues, or from interactions between… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Pigment patterns in adult fish result from superimposition of two largely independent pigmentation mechanisms

It is demonstrated that, in fact, zebrafish utilize two distinct adult pigment patterning mechanisms – an ancient dorso‐ventral patterning mechanism, and a more recent striping mechanism based on cell–cell interactions.

Cellular interactions during zebrafish adult stripe formation and implications for pigment pattern evolution

It is shown that in D. rerio, iridophores are the first pigment cell type to develop during adult stripe formation and that they do so precisely at the location of the first interstripe.

Evolutionary diversification of pigment pattern in Danio fishes: differential fms dependence and stripe loss in D. albolineatus

The results suggest an alternative model in which evolutionary changes in pigment cell interactions themselves have contributed to stripe loss, and identify changes in cellular interactions as a likely mechanism of evolutionary change in Danio pigment patterns.

Pigment cell distributions in different tissues of the zebrafish, with special reference to the striped pigment pattern

Comparison of transmission electron microscopy of pigment cells suggests that the underlying mechanism that controls the vertical order of the pigment cells is related to that controlling the stripe pattern.

Deconstructing evolution of adult phenotypes: genetic analyses of kit reveal homology and evolutionary novelty during adult pigment pattern development of Danio fishes

Comparisons of wild types and kit mutants of the two species further show that species differences in pigment pattern reflect changes in the behavior of kit-dependent EM melanophores that arise in a dispersed pattern and then migrate into stripes in D. rerio, but fail to migrate in D albolineatus.

Genetics, development and evolution of adaptive pigmentation in vertebrates

Recent empirically based studies in vertebrates provide insight into the evolutionary process by uncovering the genetic basis of adaptive traits and addressing such long-standing questions in evolutionary biology as are adaptive changes predominantly caused by mutations in regulatory regions or coding regions?

Interactions with Iridophores and the Tissue Environment Required for Patterning Melanophores and Xanthophores during Zebrafish Adult Pigment Stripe Formation

An important role for the cellular environment in promoting adult pigment pattern formation is revealed and new components of a pigment-cell autonomous pattern-generating system are identified likely to have broad implications for understanding how pigment patterns develop and evolve.

A gene expression study of dorso-ventrally restricted pigment pattern in adult fins of Neolamprologus meeli, an African cichlid species

Results from zebrafish work are applied to study a naturally occurring color pattern phenotype in the fins of an African cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika to propose pmel, igsf11 and irf1 as likely components of the genetic mechanism controlling distinct dorso-ventral color patterns in N. meeli fins.

Pigment Pattern in jaguar/obelix Zebrafish Is Caused by a Kir7.1 Mutation: Implications for the Regulation of Melanosome Movement

This work utilized a positional cloning method to determine that the inwardly rectifying potassium channel 7.1 (Kir7.1) gene is responsible for pigment cell distribution among jaguar/obelix mutant fish and discovered that mutant melanophores cannot respond correctly to the melanosome dispersion signal derived from the sympathetic neuron and that pigment cell aggregation is constitutively activated.



Formation of the adult pigment pattern in zebrafish requires leopard and obelix dependent cell interactions

Using mosaic analysis, it is shown that juxtaposition of melanophores and xanthophores suffices to restore stripe formation locally and support a view in which cell-cell interactions among pigment cells are the major driving force for adult pigment pattern formation.

Zebrafish hybrids suggest genetic mechanisms for pigment pattern diversification in Danio

Analysis of phylogenetic relationships of danio fishes and the phenotypes of interspecific hybrids support a model in which pigment pattern differences between D. rerio and other species result from gain-of-function alleles in D. Rerio, or loss- of-functionalleles in other danios.

Temporal and cellular requirements for Fms signaling during zebrafish adult pigment pattern development

The findings suggest that fms is not required for establishing a population of precursor cells during embryogenesis but is required for recruiting pigment cell precursors to xanthophore fates, with concomitant effects on melanophore organization.


  • M. McClureA. McCune
  • Environmental Science
    Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
  • 2003
Abstract Variation in pigment patterns in fishes is known to be subject to natural and sexual selection, but the mechanisms by which that variation is generated are only beginning to be understood.

Mutational analysis of endothelin receptor b1 (rose) during neural crest and pigment pattern development in the zebrafish Danio rerio.

It is demonstrated that D. rerio ednrb1 is expressed both during pigment pattern metamorphosis and during embryogenesis, and cells of melanocyte, iridophore, and xanthophore lineages all express this gene, suggesting a phylogenetic conservation of roles for Ednrb signaling in the development of amniote and teleost pigment cell precursors.

Zebrafish pigmentation mutations and the processes of neural crest development.

Comparison of their phenotypes permits classification of these mutations according to the types of defects they cause, and these suggest which process of neural crest development is probably affected, as part of a large-scale mutagenesis screen for embryonic/early larval mutations.

Genetic analysis of melanophore development in zebrafish embryos.

The cloning and expression of an early zebrafish melanoblast marker, dopachrome tautomerase, is described and used to test predictions about pigment cell number and pattern in mutant embryos, including embryos homozygous for mutations in the colourless, sparse, touchdown, sunbleached, punkt, blurred, fade out, weiss, sandy, and albino genes.

An orthologue of the kit-related gene fms is required for development of neural crest-derived xanthophores and a subpopulation of adult melanocytes in the zebrafish, Danio rerio.

An unexpected role for fms is revealed in pigment pattern development in the zebrafish and it is demonstrated that parallel neural crest-derived pigment cell populations depend on the activities of two essentially paralogous genes, kit and fms.

Mutations affecting xanthophore pigmentation in the zebrafish, Danio rerio.

Evidence is provided that these genes are required for three different aspects of xanthophore development: pigment cell formation and migration (pfeffer and salz); pigment synthesis (edison, yobo, yocca and brie); and pigment translocation (esrom, tilsit and tofu).

Dynamics of pigment pattern formation in the zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio. I. Establishment and regulation of the lateral line melanophore stripe during the first eight days of development

It is proposed that some “exclusion principle” operates in this embryonic cell population, controlling the positions along the stripe where second wave melanophores can appear, and that this principle regulates and perfects the stripe.