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Open Access Research article

FGFRL1 is a neglected putative actor of the FGF signalling pathway present in all major metazoan phyla

Stephanie Bertrand12, Ildiko Somorjai2, Jordi Garcia-Fernandez1, Thomas Lamonerie3 and Hector Escriva2*

Author Affiliations

1 Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, edifici annex, 1a planta, 08028 Barcelona, España

2 CNRS UMR 7628, UPMC Univ Paris 06, Observatoire océanographique, F-66651 Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

3 Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Institute of Developmental Biology and Cancer, CNRS UMR 6543, Faculté des Sciences-Parc Valrose, 06108 Nice Cedex 2, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:226  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-226

Published: 9 September 2009

Abstract

Background

Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGF) and their receptors are well known for having major implications in cell signalling controlling embryonic development. Recently, a gene coding for a protein closely related to FGFRs (Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptors) called FGFR5 or FGFR-like 1 (FGFRL1), has been described in vertebrates. An orthologous gene was also found in the cephalochordate amphioxus, but no orthologous genes were found by the authors in other non-vertebrate species, even if a FGFRL1 gene was identified in the sea urchin genome, as well as a closely related gene, named nou-darake, in the planarian Dugesia japonica. These intriguing data of a deuterostome-specific gene that might be implicated in FGF signalling prompted us to search for putative FGFRL1 orthologues in the completely sequenced genomes of metazoans.

Results

We found FGFRL1 genes in the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis as well as in many bilaterian species. Our analysis also shows that FGFRL1 orthologous genes are linked in the genome with other members of the FGF signalling pathway from cnidarians to bilaterians (distance < 10 Mb). To better understand the implication of FGFRL1 genes in chordate embryonic development, we have analyzed expression patterns of the amphioxus and the mouse genes by whole mount in situ hybridization. We show that some homologous expression territories can be defined, and we propose that FGFRL1 and FGF8/17/18 were already co-expressed in the pharyngeal endoderm in the ancestor of chordates.

Conclusion

Our work sheds light on the existence of a putative FGF signalling pathway actor present in the ancestor of probably all metazoans, the function of which has received little attention until now.