Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification of two distinct genes at the vertebrate TRPC2 locus and their characterisation in a marsupial and a monotreme

Stephen Frankenberg, Nanette Y Schneider, Terrence P Fletcher, Geoffrey Shaw and Marilyn B Renfree*

Author Affiliations

Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia

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BMC Molecular Biology 2011, 12:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-12-39

Published: 19 August 2011

Abstract

Background

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) detects pheromones via two large families of vomeronasal receptors: vomeronasal receptor 1 (V1R) and vomeronasal receptor 2 (V2R). Both VRs have a common receptor activation cascade involving transient receptor potential channel, subfamily C, member 2 (TRPC2).

Results

We characterised the TRPC2 locus in a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), and identified two independently regulated genes not previously recognised as distinct. 3'-located exons comprise bona fide TRPC2 whilst 5'-located exons, previously identified as part of TRPC2, comprise a distinct gene, which we term XNDR (XRCC1 N-terminal domain-related). The two genes show contrasting expression patterns in the tammar: TRPC2 is specifically expressed in adult and developing VNO, whereas XNDR is widely expressed in many tissues suggesting a non-VNO-specific role. Strong expression of TRPC2 was detected only after about day 30 post-partum, suggesting that the VNO may not be functional during early pouch life of the tammar. Similarly restricted expression of TRPC2 and widespread expression of XNDR was also detected in the platypus. Bioinformatic analysis of the genomes of a wide range of species suggests that the identity of XNDR and TRPC2 as distinct genes is conserved among vertebrates. Finally, we analysed the promoter of mammalian TRPC2 and identified a conserved binding site for NHLH1, a transcription factor previously implicated in VNO receptor neuron development.

Conclusions

Two functionally distinct vertebrate genes-XNDR and TRPC2 - occupy a genomic locus that was previously defined as a single gene in the mouse. The former is widely expressed with a putative role in DNA repair, while the latter shows VNO-specific expression under the probable regulation of NHLH1.