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Development. 2003 Aug;130(15):3447-57.

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

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abt. III/Genetik, Spemannstrasse 35, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Colour patterns are a prominent feature of many animals and are of high evolutionary relevance. In zebrafish, the adult pigment pattern comprises alternating stripes of two pigment cell types, melanophores and xanthophores. How the stripes are defined and a straight boundary is formed remains elusive. We find that mutants lacking one pigment cell type lack a striped pattern. Instead, cells of one type form characteristic patterns by homotypic interactions. Using mosaic analysis, we show that juxtaposition of melanophores and xanthophores suffices to restore stripe formation locally. Based on this, we have analysed the pigment pattern of two adult specific mutants: leopard and obelix. We demonstrate that obelix is required in melanophores to promote their aggregation and controls boundary integrity. By contrast, leopard regulates homotypic interaction within both melanophores and xanthophores, and interaction between the two, thus controlling boundary shape. These findings support a view in which cell-cell interactions among pigment cells are the major driving force for adult pigment pattern formation.

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