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Pigment Cell Melanoma Res January 1, 2019; 32 (4): 510-527.

Plasticity for colour adaptation in vertebrates explained by the evolution of the genes pomc, pmch and pmchl.

Bertolesi GE , Zhang JZ , McFarlane S .

Different camouflages work best with some background matching colour. Our understanding of the evolution of skin colour is based mainly on the genetics of pigmentation ("background matching"), with little known about the evolution of the neuroendocrine systems that facilitate "background adaptation" through colour phenotypic plasticity. To address the latter, we studied the evolution in vertebrates of three genes, pomc, pmch and pmchl, that code for α-MSH and two melanin-concentrating hormones (MCH and MCHL). These hormones induce either dispersion/aggregation or the synthesis of pigments. We find that α-MSH is highly conserved during evolution, as is its role in dispersing/synthesizing pigments. Also conserved is the three-exon pmch gene that encodes MCH, which participates in feeding behaviours. In contrast, pmchl (known previously as pmch), is a teleost-specific intron-less gene. Our data indicate that in zebrafish, pmchl-expressing neurons extend axons to the pituitary, supportive of an MCHL hormonal role, whereas zebrafish and Xenopus pmch+ neurons send axons dorsally in the brain. The evolution of these genes and acquisition of hormonal status for MCHL explain different mechanisms used by vertebrates to background-adapt.

PubMed ID: 30791235
Article link: Pigment Cell Melanoma Res
Grant support: [+]
Genes referenced: pmch pomc

Article Images: [+] show captions

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