The casper strain of zebrafish is widely used in studies ranging from cancer to neuroscience. casper offers the advantage of relative transparency throughout adulthood, making it particularly useful for in vivo imaging by epifluorescence, confocal, and light sheet microscopy. casper was developed by selective breeding of two previously described recessive pigment mutants: 1) nacre, which harbors an inactivating mutation of the mitfa gene, rendering the fish devoid of pigmented melanocytes; and 2) roy orbison, a mutant with a so-far unidentified genetic cause that lacks reflective iridophores. To clarify the molecular nature of the roy orbison mutation, such that it can inform studies using casper, we undertook an effort to positionally clone the roy orbison mutation. We find that roy orbison is caused by an intronic defect in the gene mpv17, encoding an inner mitochondrial membrane protein that has been implicated in the human mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. The roy orbison mutation is phenotypically and molecularly remarkably similar to another zebrafish iridophore mutant called transparent. Using Cas9-induced crispants and germline mutants with a disrupted mpv17 open reading frame, we show in trans-heterozygote embryos that new frameshift alleles of mpv17, roy orbison, and transparent fail to complement each other. Our work provides genetic evidence that both roy orbison and transparent affect the mpv17 locus by a similar if not identical genetic lesion. Identification of mpv17 mutants will allow for further work probing the relationship between mitochondrial function and pigmentation, which has to date received little attention.
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