Mutations affecting xanthophore pigmentation in the zebrafish, Danio rerio.
In a large-scale screen for mutants with defects in embryonic development we identified 17 genes (65 mutants) specifically required for the development of xanthophores. We provide evidence that these genes are required for three different aspects of xanthophore development. (1) Pigment cell formation and migration (pfeffer and salz); (2) pigment synthesis (edison, yobo, yocca and brie) and (3) pigment translocation (esrom, tilsit and tofu). The number of xanthophore cells that appear in the body is reduced in embryos with mutations in the two genes, salz and pfeffer. In heterozygous and homozygous salz and pfeffer adults, the melanophore stripes are interrupted, indicating that xanthophore cells have an important function in adult melanophore pattern formation. Most other genes affect only larval pigmentation. In embryos mutant for edison, yobo, yocca and brie, differences in pteridine synthesis can be observed under UV light and by thin-layer chromatography. Homozygous mutant females of yobo show a recessive maternal effect. Embryonic development is slowed down and embryos display head and tail truncations. Xanthophores in larvae mutant in the three genes esrom, tilsit and tofu appear less spread out. In addition, these mutants display a defect in retinotectal axon pathfinding. These mutations may affect xanthophore pigment distribution within the cells or xanthophore cell shape. Mutations in seven genes affecting xanthophore pigmentation remain unclassified.