Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification of multiple integrin β1 homologs in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

A Paul Mould1*, Jennifer A McLeish1, Julie Huxley-Jones1, Alexander C Goonesinghe2, Adam FL Hurlstone2, Raymond P Boot-Handford1 and Martin J Humphries1

Author Affiliations

1 Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, Faculty of Life Sciences, Michael Smith Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK

2 Faculty of Life Sciences, Michael Smith Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK

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BMC Cell Biology 2006, 7:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-7-24

Published: 20 June 2006



Integrins comprise a large family of α,β heterodimeric, transmembrane cell adhesion receptors that mediate diverse essential biological functions. Higher vertebrates possess a single β1 gene, and the β1 subunit associates with a large number of α subunits to form the major class of extracellular matrix (ECM) receptors. Despite the fact that the zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a rapidly emerging model organism of choice for developmental biology and for models of human disease, little is currently known about β1 integrin sequences and functions in this organism.


Using RT-PCR, complete coding sequences of zebrafish β1 paralogs were obtained from zebrafish embryos or adult tissues. The results show that zebrafish possess two β1 paralogs (β1–1 and β1–2) that have a high degree of identity to other vertebrate β1 subunits. In addition, a third, more divergent, β1 paralog is present (β1–3), which may have altered ligand-binding properties. Zebrafish also have other divergent β1-like transcripts, which are C-terminally truncated forms lacking the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains. Together with β1–3 these truncated forms comprise a novel group of β1 paralogs, all of which have a mutation in the ADMIDAS cation-binding site. Phylogenetic and genomic analyses indicate that the duplication that gave rise to β1–1 and β1–2 occurred after the divergence of the tetrapod and fish lineages, while a subsequent duplication of the ancestor of β1–2 may have given rise to β1–3 and an ancestral truncated paralog. A very recent tandem duplication of the truncated β1 paralogs appears to have taken place. The different zebrafish β1 paralogs have varied patterns of temporal expression during development. β1–1 and β1–2 are ubiquitously expressed in adult tissues, whereas the other β1 paralogs generally show more restricted patterns of expression.


Zebrafish have a large set of integrin β1 paralogs. β1–1 and β1–2 may share the roles of the solitary β1 subunit found in other vertebrates, whereas β1–3 and the truncated β1 paralogs may have acquired novel functions.