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Pigment Cell Res. 2000 Oct;13(5):300-19.

The regulation of motile activity in fish chromatophores.

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  • 1Department of Biomolecular Science, Faculty of Science, Toho University, Funabashi, Chiba, Japan.


Chromatophores, including melanophores, xanthophores, erythrophores, leucophores and iridophores, are responsible for the revelation of integumentary coloration in fish. Recently, blue chromatophores, also called cyanophores, were added to the list of chromatophores. Many of them are also known to possess cellular motility, by which fish are able to change their integumentary hues and patterns, thus enabling them to execute remarkable or subtle chromatic adaptation to environmental hues and patterns, and to cope with various ethological encounters. Such physiological color changes are indeed crucial for them to survive, either by protecting themselves from predators or by increasing their chances of feeding. Sometimes, they are also useful in courtship and mutual communications among individuals of the same species, leading to an increased rate of species survival. Such strategies are realized by complex mechanisms existing in the endocrine and/or nervous systems. Current studies further indicate that some paracrine factors such as endothelins (ETs) are involved in these processes. In this review, the elaborate mechanisms regulating chromatophores in these lovely aquatic animals are described.

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