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The evolution of tenascins and fibronectin


Tenascins are extracellular matrix glycoproteins that act both as integrin ligands and as modifiers of fibronectin-integrin interactions to regulate cell adhesion, migration, proliferation and differentiation. In tetrapods, both tenascins and fibronectin bind to integrins via RGD and LDV-type tripeptide motifs found in exposed loops in their fibronectin-type III domains. We previously showed that tenascins appeared early in the chordate lineage and are represented by single genes in extant cephalochordates and tunicates. Here we have examined the genomes of the coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae, the elephant shark Callorhinchus milii as well as the lampreys Petromyzon marinus and Lethenteron japonicum to learn more about the evolution of the tenascin gene family as well as the timing of the appearance of fibronectin during chordate evolution. The coelacanth has 4 tenascins that are more similar to tetrapod tenascins than are tenascins from ray-finned fishes. In contrast, only 2 tenascins were identified in the elephant shark and the Japanese lamprey L. japonicum. An RGD motif exposed to integrin binding is observed in tenascins from many, but not all, classes of chordates. Tetrapods that lack this RGD motif in tenascin-C have a similar motif in the paralog tenascin-W, suggesting the potential for some overlapping function. A predicted fibronectin with the same domain organization as the fibronectin from tetrapods is found in the sea lamprey P. marinus but not in tunicates, leading us to infer that fibronectin first appeared in vertebrates. The motifs that recognize LDV-type integrin receptors are conserved in fibronectins from a broad spectrum of vertebrates, but the RGD integrin-binding motif may have evolved in gnathostomes.

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