Multipotent neural crest stem cells have been identified in late gestation amniote embryos. Yet, significant questions remain about the mechanisms by which these cells are generated, maintained, and recruited during postembryonic development. The zebrafish, Danio rerio, offers an opportunity to identify genes essential for these processes, by screening for mutants with defects in traits likely to depend on these cells during metamorphosis and adult life. One such trait is the pigment pattern formed by neural crest-derived pigment cells, or chromatophores, which include black melanophores, yellow xanthophores, and iridescent iridophores. Previous analyses have demonstrated that the adult zebrafish pigment pattern depends on the de novo differentiation of latent precursor cells during both early and late phases of pigment pattern metamorphosis. To better understand the development of these cells, in this study, we analyze the zebrafish puma mutant, which ablates most of the adult melanophores that differentiate during metamorphosis, but leaves intact early larval melanophores that differentiate during embryogenesis. We use epistasis analyses to show that puma promotes the development of both early-appearing metamorphic melanophores that depend on the kit receptor tyrosine kinase, as well as late-appearing metamorphic melanophores that depend on both the G-protein-coupled endothelin receptor b1 (ednrb1) and the kit-related fms receptor tyrosine kinase. We further demonstrate that, during pigment pattern metamorphosis, puma mutants have deficiencies in the numbers of cells expressing transcripts for kit, ednrb1, and fms, as well as the HMG domain transcription factor sox10. Because the puma mutant phenotype is temperature-sensitive, we use temperature-shift experiments to identify a critical period for puma activity during pigment pattern metamorphosis. Finally, we use cell transplantations to show that puma acts cell-autonomously to promote the expansion of pigment cell lineages during metamorphosis. These results suggest a model for the lineage diversification of neural crest stem cells during zebrafish postembryonic development.
Copyright 2003 Elsevier Science (USA)