Unusual light-reflecting pigment cells, "white pigment cells", specifically appear in the periodic albino mutant (ap/ap) of Xenopus laevis and localize in the same place where melanophores normally differentiate in the wild-type. The mechanism responsible for the development of unusual pigment cells is unclear. In this study, white pigment cells in the periodic albino were compared with melanophores in the wild-type, using a cell culture system and a tail-regenerating system. Observations of both intact and cultured cells demonstrate that white pigment cells are unique in (1) showing characteristics of melanophore precursors at various stages of development, (2) accumulating reflecting platelets characteristic of iridophores, and (3) exhibiting pigment dispersion in response to α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in the same way that melanophores do. When a tadpole tail is amputated, a functionally competent new tail is regenerated. White pigment cells appear in the mutant regenerating tail, whereas melanophores differentiate in the wild-type regenerating tail. White pigment cells in the mutant regenerating tail are essentially similar to melanophores in the wild-type regenerating tail with respect to their localization, number, and response to α-MSH. In addition to white pigment cells, iridophores which are never present in the intact tadpole tail appear specifically in the somites near the amputation level in the mutant regenerating tail. Iridophores are distinct from white pigment cells in size, shape, blue light-induced fluorescence, and response to α-MSH. These findings strongly suggest that white pigment cells in the mutant arise from melanophore precursors and accumulate reflecting platelets characteristic of iridophores.
ASJC Scopus subject areas