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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Aug 28;98(18):10196-201. Epub 2001 Aug 21.

Expression and phylogeny of claudins in vertebrate primordia.

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  • 1Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021-6399, USA.


Claudins, the major transmembrane proteins of tight junctions, are members of the tetraspanin superfamily of proteins that mediate cellular adhesion and migration. Their functional importance is demonstrated by mutations in claudin genes that eliminate tight junctions in myelin and the testis, abolish Mg(2+) resorption in the kidney, and cause autosomal recessive deafness. Here we report that two paralogs among 15 claudin genes in the zebrafish, Danio rerio, are expressed in the otic and lateral-line placodes at their earliest stages of development. Related claudins in amphibians and mammals are expressed in a similar manner in vertebrate primordia such as sensory placodes, branchial arches, and limb buds. We also show that the claudin gene family may have expanded along the chordate stem lineage from urochordates to gnathostomes, in parallel with the elaboration of vertebrate characters. We propose that tight junctions not only form barriers in mature epithelia, but also participate in vertebrate morphogenesis.

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