The pigment cells of the skin are derived from melanoblasts which originate in the neural crest. The dorsoventral migration of melanoblasts has been visualized in pigment stripes seen in aggregation chimeras, and the width of these bands has suggested that the entire pigmentation of the coat is derived from a small number of founder cells. We have generated mosaic mice by marking single melanoblasts in utero to gain information on the clonal history of pigment-forming cells. A retroviral vector carrying the human tyrosinase gene was constructed and microinjected into neurulating albino mouse embryos. Albino mice are devoid of pigmentation due to deficiency of tyrosinase. Thus, transduction of the wild-type gene into the otherwise normal melanoblasts should rescue the mutant phenotype, giving rise to patches of pigmentation, which correspond to the area colonized by the mitotic progeny of a marked clone. Mosaic animals derived from the injected embryos indeed showed pigmented bands with a width strikingly similar to the ‘standard’ stripes seen in aggregation chimeras. These results are consistent with the notion that the unit width bands seen in aggregation chimeras represent the clonal progeny of a single melanoblast and verify Mintz's (1967) conclusion that a few founder melanoblasts give rise to coat pigmentation. The pigment cells of the eye are of dual origin: the melanocytes in choroid and outer layer of the iris are derived from the neural crest and those in the pigment layer of the retina from the neuroepithelium of the optic cup. Marked clones in both lineages were observed in the eyes of many mosaic animals.

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