The pteridine pathway in zebrafish: regulation and specification during the determination of neural crest cell-fate

Pigment Cell Res. 2003 Jun;16(3):172-82. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2003.00044.x.


This review describes pteridine biosynthesis and its relation to the differentiation of neural crest derivatives in zebrafish. During the embryonic development of these fish, neural crest precursor cells segregate into neural elements, ectomesenchymal cells and pigment cells; the latter then diversifying into melanophores, iridophores and xanthophores. The differentiation of neural cells, melanophores, and xanthophores is coupled closely with the onset of pteridine synthesis which starts from GTP and is regulated through the control of GTP cyclohydrolase I activity. De novo pteridine synthesis in embryos of this species increases during the first 72-h postfertilization, producing H4biopterin, which serves as a cofactor for neurotransmitter synthesis in neural cells and for tyrosine production in melanophores. Thereafter, sepiapterin (6-lactoyl-7,8-dihydropterin) accumulates as yellow pigment in xanthophores, together with 7-oxobiopterin, isoxanthopterin and 2,4,7-trioxopteridine. Sepiapterin is the key intermediate in the formation of 7-oxopteridines, which depends on the availability of enzymes belonging to the xanthine oxidoreductase family. Expression of the GTP cyclohydrolase I gene (gch) is found in neural cells, in melanoblasts and in early xanthophores (xanthoblasts) of early zebrafish embryos but steeply declines in xanthophores by 42-h postfertilization. The mechanism(s) whereby sepiapterin branches off from the GTP-H4biopterin pathway is currently unknown and will require further study. The surge of interest in zebrafish as a model for vertebrate development and its amenability to genetic manipulation provide powerful tools for analysing the functional commitment of neural crest-derived cells and the regulation of pteridine synthesis in mammals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biopterin / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • GTP Cyclohydrolase / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / chemistry
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Melanophores / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Mutation
  • Neural Crest / embryology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism
  • Pteridines / metabolism*
  • Pterins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Xanthine Oxidase / metabolism
  • Xanthopterin / metabolism
  • Zebrafish


  • Pigments, Biological
  • Pteridines
  • Pterins
  • luciopterin
  • Biopterin
  • Tyrosine
  • isoxanthopterin
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • sepiapterin
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase
  • Xanthine Oxidase
  • GTP Cyclohydrolase
  • Xanthopterin