In the periodic albino mutant (ap/ap) of Xenopus laevis, peculiar leucophore-like cells appear in the skins of tadpoles and froglets, whereas no such cells are observed in the wild-type (+/+). These leucophore-like cells are unusual in (1) appearing white, but not iridescent, under incident light, (2) emitting green fluorescence under blue light, (3) exhibiting pigment dispersion in the presence of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (αMSH), and (4) containing an abundance of bizarre-shaped, reflecting platelet-like organelles. In this study, the developmental and ultrastructural characteristics of these leucophore-like cells were compared with melanophores, iridophores and xanthophores, utilizing fluorescence stereomicroscopy, and light and electron microscopy. Staining with methylene blue, exposure to αMSH, and culture of neural crest cells were also performed to clarify the pigment cell type. The results obtained clearly indicate that: (1) the leucophore-like cells in the mutant are different from melanophores, iridophores and xanthophores, (2) the leucophore-like cells are essentially similar to melanophores of the wild-type with respect to their localization in the skin and manner of response to αMSH, (3) the leucophore-like cells contain many premelanosomes that are observed in developing melanophores, and (4) mosaic pigment cells containing both melanosomes specific to mutant melanophores and peculiar reflecting platelet-like organelles are observed in the mutant tadpoles. These findings strongly suggest that the leucophore-like cells in the periodic albino mutant are derived from the melanophore lineage, which provides some insight into the origin of brightly colored pigment cells in lower vertebrates.
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