Transcriptional regulation of Rab32/38, a specific marker of pigment cell formation in Ciona robusta. Academic Article uri icon


  • Through a myriad of pigments stored in different cells, animal pigmentation represents a crucial process to face disparate environmental and ecological challenges. In vertebrates, the small GTPase Rab32 and Rab38 have a conserved role in the transport of key melanogenic enzymes, as tyrosinase (tyr) and tyrosinase-related protein (tyrp), to the melanosomes in formation. We provide a survey on Rab32/38 evolution and its regulatory logics during pigment cell formation in Ciona robusta. Our phylogeny supports the existence of a single Rab32/38 gene in tunicates, which is probably the unique transporter for tyrosinase family members in this clade. Different deletions allow us to identify the minimal cis-regulatory element able to recapitulate the endogenous gene expression during pigment cell development in C. robusta. In this conserved region, we identified two putative binding sites for the transcription factor Mitf, which is known for its role as regulator of pigmentation in vertebrates. Mutational analysis revealed that both Mitf binding sites are essential for the activity of this regulatory region and we demonstrated that Mitf misexpression is able to induce ectopic activation of the Rab32/38 regulatory region in vivo. Our results strongly indicate that Mitf is involved in the regulation of Rab32/38 activity during Ciona pigment cell development.

publication date

  • April 15, 2019