How did the zebrafish get its stripes

Zoom into alternative patterns of zebrafish and the color strips resolve into individual pigment cells, like a pointillist painting. Credit: Kit Yates from Wikimedia and inset by Jennifer Owen

Animal patterns – streaks, spots, and skylights seen in the wild are a source of endless attraction, and now researchers at University Bath have developed a strong mathematical model to explain how an important species, the zebrafish, can shed its stripes Develops.

In the animal kingdom, the arrangement of skin pigment cells begins during the embryonic stage of development, making the pattern an area of ​​deep interest not only to a keen audience, but also to scientists – specifically, evolutionary biologists And for mathematicians.

Zebrafish are invaluable for studying human disease. These humble freshwater minnows seem less common with mammals but in fact they show many genetic similarities to our species and boast a similar list of physical characteristics (including the most prominent organs).

The zebrafish also provide fundamental insights into complex, and often miraculous, processes that underlie biology. The study of their striking appearance from time to time may be relevant to therapy, as pattern formation is an important general feature of organ development. Therefore, a better understanding of pigment pattern formation may provide us with insights into diseases caused by cell arrangement disruption within organs.

The new mathematical model developed at Bath paves the way for further exploration in pigment patterning systems and their similarity across different species. Pigmentation in zebrafish is an example of an accidental event – a person in which (cells in this case), all acting according to their own local rules, themselves to form an ordered pattern on more than one scale. -Organize who can expect more than one. Other examples of accidental phenomena in biology include strings of stars and synchronized swimming observed in schools of fish.

Bath’s mathematician Drs. Kit Yates, who led the study, said: “It is fascinating to think that these different pigment cells, which are all functioning without coordinated centralized control, reliably produce the striped pattern we see in zebrafish Can. Our modeling sheds light on local. Rules that use these cells to interact with each other to generate these patterns robustly. “

“Why is it important for us to find the right mathematical model to explain stripes on zebrafish?” The study co-author asks Professor Robert Kelce. “Partly, because pigment patterns are interesting and beautiful in themselves. But also because these stripes are an example of a developmental developmental process. If we can understand what is happening in the development of fish embryonic patterns, then We may be able to. Get a deeper insight into the complex choreography of cells within the embryo more generally. “

The stripes of an adult ‘wild type’ zebrafish are composed of pigmented cells called chromatophores. Fish have three different types of chromatophores, and as the animal develops, these pigment cells move around on the surface of the animal, interact with each other and arrange themselves in a striped pattern for which The name of the fish is given. Occasionally, mutations appear, changing how cells interact with each other during pattern development, resulting in spots of speckled, leopard-skin, or labyrinth-like labyrinths.

Scientists know much about the biological interactions required for the self-organization of pigment cells of a zebrafish, but there is some uncertainty as to whether these interactions provide a comprehensive description of the formulation of these patterns. To test biological theories, the Bath team developed a mathematical model consisting of three cell types and all their known interactions. The model has proved successful, predicting pattern development of both wild-type and mutant fish.

Mathematicians are trying to explain how zebrafish stripes form over many years, although the wide range of fish mutant patterns observed in many previous modeling efforts has not been accounted for. Jennifer Owen, the scientist responsible for building and running the model, stated, “One advantage of our model is that due to its complexity, it can help predict the developmental defects of some poorly understood mutants. For example. , Our model. Helps predict faulty cell – cell interactions in mutants such as leopards, which exhibit spots. “

The study is published in eLife.

Why zebrafish (almost) always have stripes

more information:
eLife, DOI: 10.7554 / eLife.52998

Journal Information:

Provided by University of Bath

Quotes: How Zebrafish Got Their Stripes (2020, 27 July) Retrieved 28 July 2020 from

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