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Role of stem cell niche topology in complex feather pigment patterning

Lin et al 2013 "Topology of Feather Melanocyte Progenitor Niche Allows Complex 
Pigment Patterns 
to Emerge". Science (Published Online April 25 2013)


Color patterns of bird plumage affect animal behavior and speciation. Diverse 
patterns are present 
in different species and within the individual. Here, we study the cellular and 
molecular basis of 
feather pigment pattern formation. Melanocyte progenitors are distributed as a 
horizontal ring in 
the proximal follicle, sending melanocytes vertically up into the epithelial 
cylinder which gradually 
emerges as feathers grow. Different pigment patterns form by modulating the 
arrangement, or differentiation of melanocytes. A layer of peripheral pulp 
further regulates 
pigmentation via patterned agouti expression. Lifetime feather cyclic 
regeneration resets pigment 
patterns for physiological needs. Thus, the evolution of stem cell niche 
topology allows complex 
pigment patterning via combinatorial co-option of simple regulatory mechanisms. 


Feather patterns reveal stem cell secrets



Dann Pigdon
Spatial Data Analyst               Australian Dinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia               http://home.alphalink.com.au/~dannj