Washington: A team of researchers, who earlier explained how zebrafish get their stripes, has now given new insights on how to strip a zebrafish of its stripes.
The findings from the University of Washington give new understanding about genes and cell behaviors that underlie pigment patterns in zebrafish that, in turn, could help unravel the workings of pigment cells in humans and other animals, skin disorders such as melanoma and cell regeneration.
Unlike humans with a single pigment cell type, the amount of melanin that produces color being determined by everyone's individual genetics, there are three pigment cells that make the zebrafish pattern.
The UW researchers earlier determined the surprising process by which the cells in the embryo first mature into xanthophores (that produce the color orange) and then, when it's time to make stripes, these same cells lose their color, increase in number and then turn back into xanthophores with color.
Now in this study, the corresponding author David Parichy's group reports on a gene that drives the unusually early appearance of xanthophores, independent of thyroid hormone, in another species, the pearl danio.
Unlike zebrafish this species lacks stripes as its pigment cells are intermingled and arranged uniformly on the body, giving it a pearly orange color.
By expressing this gene the same way in zebrafish, the researchers caused the fish to make extra-early xanthophores and the fish produced a uniform pattern like the pearl danio instead of their usual stripes.
Researchers have determined it's a certain gene that keeps pigment cells dispersed and gives the pearl danio its uniform orange color and by expressing this gene the same way in zebrafish, the zebrafish pigment cells also remained intermingled and the fish were essentially stripped of their stripes.
The study is published in Nature Communications.