MNU induction of neoplasia in a platyfish model

Lab Invest. 2001 Sep;81(9):1191-8. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3780333.


Interspecific hybrid crosses between members of the fish genus Xiphophorus have been used for over 70 years to study the genetic aspects of melanoma formation. In the well-established "Gordon-Kosswig" cross, the platyfish X. maculatus is outcrossed to the swordtail X. helleri, and the resulting backcross segregants spontaneously develop melanoma. We recently produced a distinct cross between X. maculatus and another platyfish species, X. couchianus. X. maculatus strain Jp 163 A is homozygous for several X-linked pigment pattern genes, including the Spotted dorsal (Sd), Dorsal red (Dr), and Anal fin spot (Af). Af is a sex-limited trait, coding exclusively for melanophores distributed on the modified anal fin or "gonopodium" in the adult male fish. Within F1 and BC1 hybrids (to X. couchianus), the Sd pigment pattern is phenotypically suppressed, whereas Dr and Af are enhanced. We exposed BC1 hybrids to the direct-acting carcinogen N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU). Treatment led to the development of schwannomas, fibrosarcomas, and retinoblastomas. In addition, numerous MNU-treated males that inherited Af developed a pronounced melanotic phenotype, with melanin-containing cells oftentimes totally covering the gonopodium and extending further to grow within the ventral regions of the fish. Genetic linkage analysis of the BC1 hybrids revealed a significant (p < 0.01) association between CDKN2X genotype and the phenotypic degree of melanization. Such an association is consistent with a locus within linkage group V playing a role in the development of melanosis and delineates three genetic preconditions and a carcinogenic scheme resulting in melanosis of the ventral regions of hybrid fish. The overall study further alludes to the potential of using Xiphophorus fish to study carcinogenic mechanisms for tumors other than melanoma (schwannoma, fibrosarcoma, and retinoblastoma) and should enable extensive pathologic and molecular genetic studies of derived neoplastic abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fibrosarcoma / chemically induced*
  • Fibrosarcoma / pathology
  • Fishes / genetics
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genotype
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Male
  • Melanosis / chemically induced
  • Melanosis / genetics
  • Methylnitrosourea*
  • Nervous System Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neurilemmoma / chemically induced*
  • Neurilemmoma / pathology
  • Retinal Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Retinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Retinoblastoma / chemically induced*
  • Retinoblastoma / pathology


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Methylnitrosourea