Pigment pattern formation in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata, involves the Kita and Csf1ra receptor tyrosine kinases

Genetics. 2013 Jul;194(3):631-46. doi: 10.1534/genetics.113.151738. Epub 2013 May 11.


Males of the guppy (Poecilia reticulata) vary tremendously in their ornamental patterns, which are thought to have evolved in response to a complex interplay between natural and sexual selection. Although the selection pressures acting on the color patterns of the guppy have been extensively studied, little is known about the genes that control their ontogeny. Over 50 years ago, two autosomal color loci, blue and golden, were described, both of which play a decisive role in the formation of the guppy color pattern. Orange pigmentation is absent in the skin of guppies with a lesion in blue, suggesting a defect in xanthophore development. In golden mutants, the development of the melanophore pattern during embryogenesis and after birth is affected. Here, we show that blue and golden correspond to guppy orthologs of colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor a (csf1ra; previously called fms) and kita. Most excitingly, we found that both genes are required for the development of the black ornaments of guppy males, which in the case of csf1ra might be mediated by xanthophore-melanophore interactions. Furthermore, we provide evidence that two temporally and genetically distinct melanophore populations contribute to the adult camouflage pattern expressed in both sexes: one early appearing and kita-dependent and the other late-developing and kita-independent. The identification of csf1ra and kita mutants provides the first molecular insights into pigment pattern formation in this important model species for ecological and evolutionary genetics.

Keywords: Csf1ra; Kita; color pattern; guppy; pigment pattern development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fish Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Male
  • Melanophores / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Poecilia / genetics*
  • Poecilia / growth & development
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor, Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*


  • Fish Proteins
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KC143122
  • GENBANK/KC143123
  • GENBANK/KC143124
  • GENBANK/KC143125
  • GENBANK/KC143126