Pigment Cell

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pigment cell

[′pig·mənt ‚sel]
(cell and molecular biology)
Any cell containing deposits of pigment.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pigment Cell


(also called chromatophore), any vertebrate animal or human cell whose cytoplasm contains colored substances that are called pigments, which are responsible for skin color and the color of certain internal organs. The principal types of pigment cells are melanocytes and melanophores, which contain melanin; xanthophores, which contain carotenoids, flavins, and pterins; and iridocytes, or guanophores, which contain guanidine crystals. Melanin ranges in color from yellow to blackish; carotenoids, flavins, and pterins range from yellow to red; and guanidine crystals impart an iridescent silver or gold sheen. By engulfing pigment granules of decomposing pigment cells, macrophages can take on the appearance of pigment cell.

The coloration of fish, amphibians, and reptiles is predicated by the combined pattern of pigment cells of different shapes and sizes in the skin. The coloration of birds and mammals depends mostly on the color of the feathers and hairs, which absorb pigment from pigment cells in the papilla at the base of each feather or hair.

Pigment cells originate in the course of embryonic development from the neural crests, which are situated between the neural plate and the ectoderm. Their coloration and the various markings that they produce depend on several factors. One important factor is the interaction of the developing pigment cells both among each other and with the surrounding tissues, especially the epidermis. In amphibians, many fishes, and certain reptiles—for example, chameleons—pigment granules can either migrate to the outgrowths of the pigment cells or accumulate around the nucleus. This enables the animal to change its color quickly as it adapts to the environment. Adaptive changes in coloration and markings are controlled by the nervous system in response to visual stimuli, by pituitary and thyroid hormones, and by hormones of the pineal body.


Prosser, L., and F. Brown. Sravnitel’naia fiziologiia zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1967. Pages 566-600. (Translated from English.)
Bagnara, J. T. “Cytology and Cytophysiology of Nonmelanophore Pigment Cells.” International Review of Cytology, 1966, vol. 20, pp. 173-205.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
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Pavan, "WNT1 and WNT3a promote expansion of melanocytes through distinct modes of action," Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, vol.
Claas, "Difference in pathogenesis between vitiligo vulgaris and halo nevi associated with vitiligo is supported by an HLA Association Study," Pigment Cell Research, vol.
Human studies of melanoma." Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research 2007 21 (5): 517-519.
The pigment cells are dominated by very densely staining granules, which surround a moderate to densely staining ovoid cytoplasm and nucleus (Figs.
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Seeking answers to this puzzle, Yoshida and her colleagues inserted a glass capillary electrode into a single pigment cell of a flower petal from the morning glory, which gradually changes from purplish-red to sky blue as it opens each morning, despite the fact that only one type of pigment molecule--heavenly blue anthocyanin--is present.
This new model suggests that one of the pigment cell types - called iridophores - leads the process of cell organization.
The researchers found that in fish with jaguar mutations, black melanophores circle yellow pigment cells but don't move away from them.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system goes into overdrive and kills pigment cells, which give skin its color.