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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phylogenetic analysis of the tenascin gene family: evidence of origin early in the chordate lineage

RP Tucker1*, K Drabikowski24*, JF Hess1, J Ferralli2, R Chiquet-Ehrismann2 and JC Adams3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA

2 Friedrich Miescher Institute, Novartis Research Foundation, Basel, Switzerland

3 Dept. of Cell Biology, Lerner Research Institute and Dept. of Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44118, USA

4 Institute of Biology 3, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2006, 6:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-6-60

Published: 7 August 2006

Abstract

Background

Tenascins are a family of glycoproteins found primarily in the extracellular matrix of embryos where they help to regulate cell proliferation, adhesion and migration. In order to learn more about their origins and relationships to each other, as well as to clarify the nomenclature used to describe them, the tenascin genes of the urochordate Ciona intestinalis, the pufferfish Tetraodon nigroviridis and Takifugu rubripes and the frog Xenopus tropicalis were identified and their gene organization and predicted protein products compared with the previously characterized tenascins of amniotes.

Results

A single tenascin gene was identified in the genome of C. intestinalis that encodes a polypeptide with domain features common to all vertebrate tenascins. Both pufferfish genomes encode five tenascin genes: two tenascin-C paralogs, a tenascin-R with domain organization identical to mammalian and avian tenascin-R, a small tenascin-X with previously undescribed GK repeats, and a tenascin-W. Four tenascin genes corresponding to tenascin-C, tenascin-R, tenascin-X and tenascin-W were also identified in the X. tropicalis genome. Multiple sequence alignment reveals that differences in the size of tenascin-W from various vertebrate classes can be explained by duplications of specific fibronectin type III domains. The duplicated domains are encoded on single exons and contain putative integrin-binding motifs. A phylogenetic tree based on the predicted amino acid sequences of the fibrinogen-related domains demonstrates that tenascin-C and tenascin-R are the most closely related vertebrate tenascins, with the most conserved repeat and domain organization. Taking all lines of evidence together, the data show that the tenascins referred to as tenascin-Y and tenascin-N are actually members of the tenascin-X and tenascin-W gene families, respectively.

Conclusion

The presence of a tenascin gene in urochordates but not other invertebrate phyla suggests that tenascins may be specific to chordates. Later genomic duplication events led to the appearance of four family members in vertebrates: tenascin-C, tenascin-R, tenascin-W and tenascin-X.