We describe a novel recessive and nonlethal pigmentation mutant in Xenopus tropicalis. The mutant phenotype can be initially observed in tadpoles after stage 39/40, when mutant embryos display markedly reduced pigmentation in the retina and the trunk. By tadpole stage 50 almost all pigmented melanophores have disappeared. Most interestingly, those embryos fail entirely to make pigmented iridophores. The combined reduction/absence of both pigmented iridophores and melanophores renders these embryos virtually transparent, permitting one to easily observe both the developing internal organs and nervous system; accordingly, we named this mutant no privacy (nop). We identified the causative genetic lesion as occurring in the Xenopus homolog of the human Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome 6 (HPS6) gene, combining several approaches that utilized conventional gene mapping and classical and modern genetic tools available in Xenopus (gynogenesis, BAC transgenesis and TALEN-mediated mutagenesis). The nop allele contains a 10-base deletion that results in truncation of the Hps6 protein. In humans, HPS6 is one of the genes responsible for the congenital disease HPS, pathological symptoms of which include oculocutaneous albinism caused by defects in lysosome-related organelles required for pigment formation. Markers for melanin-producing neural crest cells show that the cells that would give rise to melanocytes are present in nop, though unpigmented. Abnormalities develop at tadpole stages in the pigmented retina when overall pigmentation becomes reduced and large multi-melanosomes are first formed. Ear development is also affected in nop embryos when both zygotic and maternal hsp6 is mutated: otoliths are often reduced or abnormal in morphology, as seen in some mouse HPS mutations, but to our knowledge not described in the BLOC-2 subset of HPS mutations nor described in non-mammalian systems previously. The transparency of the nop line suggests that these animals will aid studies of early organogenesis during tadpole stages. In addition, because of advantages of the Xenopus system for assessing gene expression, cell biological mechanisms, and the ontogeny of melanosome and otolith formation, this should be a highly useful model for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the acquisition of the HPS phenotype and the underlying biology of lysosome-related organelle function.
Nakayama, T., Nakajima, K., Cox, A., Fisher, M., Howell, M., Fish, M. B., … Grainger, R. M. (2017). no privacy, a Xenopus tropicalis mutant, is a model of human Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome and allows visualization of internal organogenesis during tadpole development. Developmental Biology, 426(2), 472–486. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2016.08.020