Origins of adult pigmentation: diversity in pigment stem cell lineages and implications for pattern evolution

Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2015 Jan;28(1):31-50. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.12332. Epub 2014 Dec 16.


Teleosts comprise about half of all vertebrate species and exhibit an extraordinary diversity of adult pigment patterns that function in shoaling, camouflage, and mate choice and have played important roles in speciation. Here, we review studies that have identified several distinct neural crest lineages, with distinct genetic requirements, that give rise to adult pigment cells in fishes. These lineages include post-embryonic, peripheral nerve-associated stem cells that generate black melanophores and iridescent iridophores, cells derived directly from embryonic neural crest cells that generate yellow-orange xanthophores, and bipotent stem cells that generate both melanophores and xanthophores. This complexity in adult chromatophore lineages has implications for our understanding of adult traits, melanoma, and the evolutionary diversification of pigment cell lineages and patterns.

Keywords: cell lineage; evolution; iridophore; melanophore; neural crest; pigment pattern; stem cell; xanthophore; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning*
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Pigmentation*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*