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Mol Endocrinol. 2004 Jan;18(1):1-12. Epub 2003 Oct 2.

Comparative genomic analysis of the eight-membered ring cystine knot-containing bone morphogenetic protein antagonists.

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Division of Reproductive Biology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5317, USA.


TGF-beta family proteins with a cystine knot motif serve as ligands for diverse families of plasma membrane receptors. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonists represent a subgroup of these proteins, some of which bind BMPs and antagonize their actions during development and morphogenesis. Availability of completed genome sequences from diverse organisms allows bioinformatic analysis of the evolution of BMP antagonists and facilitates their classification. Using a regular expression algorithm (, an exhaustive search of the human genome identified all cystine knot-containing BMP antagonists. Based on the size of the cystine ring, these proteins were divided into three subfamilies: CAN (eight-membered ring), twisted gastrulation (nine-membered ring), as well as chordin and noggin (10-membered ring). The CAN family can be divided further into four subgroups based on a conserved arrangement of additional cysteine residues-gremlin and PRDC, cerberus and coco, and DAN, together with USAG-1 and sclerostin. We searched for orthologs of human BMP antagonists in the genomes of model organisms and analyzed their phylogenetic relationship. New human paralogs were identified together with the verification of orthologous relationships of known genes. We also discuss the physiological roles of the CAN subfamily of BMP antagonists and the associated genetic defects. Based on the known three-dimensional structure of key cystine knot proteins, we postulated disulfide bondings for eight-membered ring BMP antagonists to predict their potential folding and dimerization.

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