Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

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



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.


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.


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.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View