Fate plasticity and reprogramming in genetically distinct populations of Danio leucophores

Victor M. Lewis, Lauren M. Saunders, Tracy A. Larson, Emily J. Bain, Samantha L. Sturiale, Dvir Gur, Sarwat Chowdhury, Jessica D. Flynn, Michael C. Allen, Dimitri D. Deheyn, Jennifer C. Lee, Julian A. Simon, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, David W. Raible, David M. Parichy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding genetic and cellular bases of adult form remains a fundamental goal at the intersection of developmental and evolutionary biology. The skin pigment cells of vertebrates, derived from embryonic neural crest, are a useful system for elucidating mechanisms of fate specification, pattern formation, and how particular phenotypes impact organismal behavior and ecology. In a survey of Danio fishes, including the zebrafish Danio rerio, we identified two populations of white pigment cells—leucophores—one of which arises by transdifferentiation of adult melanophores and another of which develops from a yellow–orange xanthophore or xanthophore-like progenitor. Single-cell transcriptomic, mutational, chemical, and ultrastructural analyses of zebrafish leucophores revealed cell-type–specific chemical compositions, organelle configurations, and genetic requirements. At the organismal level, we identified distinct physiological responses of leucophores during environmental background matching, and we showed that leucophore complement influences behavior. Together, our studies reveal independently arisen pigment cell types and mechanisms of fate acquisition in zebrafish and illustrate how concerted analyses across hierarchical levels can provide insights into phenotypes and their evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11806-11811
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
Early online date28 May 2019
StatePublished - 11 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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