A single locus regulates a female-limited color pattern polymorphism in a reptile

Sci Adv. 2022 Mar 11;8(10):eabm2387. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abm2387. Epub 2022 Mar 9.


Animal coloration is often expressed in periodic patterns that can arise from differential cell migration, yet how these processes are regulated remains elusive. We show that a female-limited polymorphism in dorsal patterning (diamond/chevron) in the brown anole is controlled by a single Mendelian locus. This locus contains the gene CCDC170 that is adjacent to, and coexpressed with, the Estrogen receptor-1 gene, explaining why the polymorphism is female limited. CCDC170 is an organizer of the Golgi-microtubule network underlying a cell's ability to migrate, and the two segregating alleles encode structurally different proteins. Our agent-based modeling of skin development demonstrates that, in principle, a change in cell migratory behaviors is sufficient to switch between the two morphs. These results suggest that CCDC170 might have been co-opted as a switch between color patterning morphs, likely by modulating cell migratory behaviors.