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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Jul;29(7):1823-36. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss060. Epub 2012 Feb 1.

Origin and evolution of laminin gene family diversity.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Laminins are a family of multidomain glycoproteins that are important contributors to the structure of metazoan extracellular matrices. To investigate the origin and evolution of the laminin family, we characterized the full complement of laminin-related genes in the genome of the sponge, Amphimedon queenslandica. As a representative of the Demospongiae, a group consistently placed within the earliest diverging branch of animals by molecular phylogenies, Amphimedon is uniquely placed to provide insight into early steps in the evolution of metazoan gene families. Five Amphimedon laminin-related genes possess the conserved molecular features, and most of the domains found in bilaterian laminins, but all display domain architectures distinct from those of the canonical laminin chain types known from model bilaterians. This finding prompted us to perform a comparative genomic analysis of laminins and related genes from a choanoflagellate and diverse metazoans and to conduct phylogenetic analyses using the conserved Laminin N-terminal domain in order to explore the relationships between genes with distinct architectures. Laminin-like genes appear to have originated in the holozoan lineage (choanoflagellates + metazoans + several other unicellular opisthokont taxa), with several laminin domains originating later and appearing only in metazoan (animal) or eumetazoan (placozoans + ctenophores + cnidarians + bilaterians) laminins. Typical bilaterian α, β, and γ laminin chain forms arose in the eumetazoan stem and another chain type that is conserved in Amphimedon, the cnidarian, Nematostella vectensis, and the echinoderm, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, appears to have been lost independently from the placozoan, Trichoplax adhaerens, and from multiple bilaterians. Phylogenetic analysis did not clearly reconstruct relationships between the distinct laminin chain types (with the exception of the α chains) but did reveal how several members of the netrin family were generated independently from within the laminin family by duplication and domain shuffling and by domain loss. Together, our results suggest that gene duplication and loss and domain shuffling and loss all played a role in the evolution of the laminin family and contributed to the generation of lineage-specific diversity in the laminin gene complements of extant metazoans.

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