Gain-of-function mutations in Aqp3a influence zebrafish pigment pattern formation through the tissue environment

Development. 2017 Jun 1;144(11):2059-2069. doi: 10.1242/dev.143495. Epub 2017 May 15.


The development of the pigmentation pattern in zebrafish is a tightly regulated process that depends on both the self-organizing properties of pigment cells and extrinsic cues from other tissues. Many of the known mutations that alter the pattern act cell-autonomously in pigment cells, and our knowledge about external regulators is limited. Here, we describe novel zebrafish mau mutants, which encompass several dominant missense mutations in Aquaporin 3a (Aqp3a) that lead to broken stripes and short fins. A loss-of-function aqp3a allele, generated by CRISPR-Cas9, has no phenotypic consequences, demonstrating that Aqp3a is dispensable for normal development. Strikingly, the pigment cells from dominant mau mutants are capable of forming a wild-type pattern when developing in a wild-type environment, but the surrounding tissues in the mutants influence pigment cell behaviour and interfere with the patterning process. The mutated amino acid residues in the dominant alleles line the pore surface of Aqp3a and influence pore permeability. These results demonstrate an important effect of the tissue environment on pigment cell behaviour and, thereby, on pattern formation.

Keywords: Aquaporin; Pattern formation; Pigmentation; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animal Fins / anatomy & histology
  • Animal Fins / cytology
  • Animals
  • Aquaporin 3 / chemistry
  • Aquaporin 3 / genetics*
  • Aquaporin 3 / metabolism
  • Chromatophores / metabolism
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics
  • Permeability
  • Phenotype
  • Pigmentation*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / chemistry
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • aquaporin 3, zebrafish
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Aquaporin 3