Parichy, D.M., Ransom, D.G., Paw, B., Zon, L.I., and Johnson, S.L. (2000) An orthologue of the kit-related gene fms is required for development of neural crest-derived xanthophores and a subpopulation of adult melanocytes in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Development (Cambridge, England). 127(14):3031-3044.
Developmental mechanisms underlying traits expressed in larval and adult vertebrates remain largely unknown. Pigment patterns of fishes provide an opportunity to identify genes and cell behaviors required for postembryonic morphogenesis and differentiation. In the zebrafish, Danio rerio, pigment patterns reflect the spatial arrangements of three classes of neural crest-derived pigment cells: black melanocytes, yellow xanthophores and silver iridophores. We show that the D. rerio pigment pattern mutant panther ablates xanthophores in embryos and adults and has defects in the development of the adult pattern of melanocyte stripes. We find that panther corresponds to an orthologue of the c-fms gene, which encodes a type III receptor tyrosine kinase and is the closest known homologue of the previously identified pigment pattern gene, kit. In mouse, fms is essential for the development of macrophage and osteoclast lineages and has not been implicated in neural crest or pigment cell development. In contrast, our analyses demonstrate that fms is expressed and required by D. rerio xanthophore precursors and that fms promotes the normal patterning of melanocyte death and migration during adult stripe formation. Finally, we show that fms is required for the appearance of a late developing, t-independent subpopulation of adult melanocytes. These findings reveal an unexpected role for fms in pigment pattern development and demonstrate that parallel neural crest-derived pigment cell populations depend on the activities of two essentially paralogous genes, kit and fms.