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Open Access Research article

The evolutionary conservation of the core components necessary for the extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathway, in Medaka fish

Kazuhiro Sakamaki1*, Masami Nozaki2, Katsuya Kominami14 and Yutaka Satou3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Development and Physiology, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan

2 Department of Cell Biology, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Suita 565-0871, Japan

3 Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan

4 Present address: Nihon Schering Research Center, Kobe 650-0047, Japan

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-141

Published: 1 June 2007

Abstract

Background

Death receptors on the cell surface and the interacting cytosolic molecules, adaptors and initiator caspases, are essential as core components of the extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathway. While the apoptotic machinery governing the extrinsic signaling pathway is well characterized in mammals, it is not fully understood in fish.

Results

We identified and characterized orthologs of mammalian Fas, FADD and caspase-8 that correspond to the death receptor, adaptor and initiator caspase, from the Medaka fish (Oryzias latipes). Medaka Fas, caspase-8 and FADD exhibited protein structures similar to that of their mammalian counterparts, containing a death domain (DD), a death effector domain (DED) or both. Functional analyses indicated that these molecules possess killing activity in mammalian cell lines upon overexpression or following activation by apoptotic stimuli, suggesting similar pro-apoptotic functions in the extrinsic pathway as those in mammals. Genomic sequence analysis revealed that the Medaka fas (tnfrsf6), fadd and caspase-8 (casp8) genes are organized in a similar genomic structure as the mammalian genes. Database search and phylogenetic analysis revealed that the fas gene, but not the fadd and casp8 genes, appear to be present only in vertebrates.

Conclusion

Our results indicate that the core components necessary for the extrinsic apoptotic pathway are evolutionarily conserved in function and structure across vertebrate species. Based on these results, we presume the mechanism of apoptosis induction via death receptors was evolutionarily established during the appearance of vertebrates.