Modeling and measuring pattern formation in zebrafish skin

Alexandria Volkening
NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology
Northwestern University

Wild-type zebrafish (Danio rerio) are characterized by black and yellow stripes, which form on their body and fins due to the self-organization of thousands of pigment cells. Mutant zebrafish and sibling species in the Danio genus, on the other hand, feature altered, variable patterns, including spots and labyrinth curves. The longterm goal of my work is to better link genotype, cell behavior, and phenotype by helping to identify the specific alterations to cell interactions that lead to these different fish patterns. Using a phenomenological approach, we develop agent-based models to describe the behavior of individual cells and simulate pattern formation on growing domains. In this talk, I will overview our models and highlight how topological techniques can be used to quantitatively compare our simulations with in vivo images. I will also discuss future directions related to taking a more mechanistic approach to modeling cell behavior in zebrafish.