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Dev Biol. 2001 Dec 15;240(2):301-14.

How the zebrafish gets its stripes.

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Department of Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The study of vertebrate pigment patterns is a classic and enduring field of developmental biology. Knowledge of pigment pattern development comes from a variety of systems, including avians, mouse, and more recently, the zebrafish (Danio rerio). Recent analyses of the mechanisms underlying the development of the neural crest-derived pigment cell type common to all vertebrates, the melanocyte, have revealed remarkable similarities and several surprising differences between amniotes and zebrafish. Here, we summarize recent advances in the study of melanocyte development in zebrafish, with reference to human, mouse, and avian systems. We first review melanocyte development in zebrafish and mammals, followed by a summary of the molecules known to be required for their development. We then discuss several relatively unaddressed issues in vertebrate pigment pattern development that are being investigated in zebrafish. These include determining the relationships between genetically distinct classes of melanocytes, characterizing and dissecting melanocyte stem cell development, and understanding how pigment cells organize into a patterned tissue. Further analysis of zebrafish pigment pattern mutants as well as new generations of directed mutant screens promise to extend our understanding of pigment pattern morphogenesis.

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