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Keywords:

  • connexin;
  • gap junction;
  • reaction–diffusion;
  • skin pattern;
  • zebrafish

Summary

The skin patterns of animals are very important for their survival, yet the mechanisms involved in skin pattern formation remain unresolved. Turing’s reaction–diffusion model presents a well-known mathematical explanation of how animal skin patterns are formed, and this model can predict various animal patterns that are observed in nature. In this study, we used transgenic zebrafish to generate various artificial skin patterns including a narrow stripe with a wide interstripe, a narrow stripe with a narrow interstripe, a labyrinth, and a ‘leopard’ pattern (or donut-like ring pattern). In this process, connexin41.8 (or its mutant form) was ectopically expressed using the mitfa promoter. Specifically, the leopard pattern was generated as predicted by Turing’s model. Our results demonstrate that the pigment cells in animal skin have the potential and plasticity to establish various patterns and that the reaction–diffusion principle can predict skin patterns of animals.