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J Neurosci. 2004 Feb 25;24(8):2027-36.

DRAGON: a member of the repulsive guidance molecule-related family of neuronal- and muscle-expressed membrane proteins is regulated by DRG11 and has neuronal adhesive properties.

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Neural Plasticity Research Group, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


DRG11, a transcription factor expressed in embryonic dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and dorsal horn neurons, has a role in the development of sensory circuits. We have used a genomic binding strategy to screen for the promoter region of genes regulated by DRG11. One gene with a promoter region binding to the DNA binding domain of DRG11 encodes a novel membrane-associated [glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored] protein that we call DRAGON. DRAGON expression is transcriptionally regulated by DRG11, and it is coexpressed with DRG11 in embryonic DRG and spinal cord. DRAGON expression in these areas is reduced in DRG11 null mutants. DRAGON is expressed, however, in the neural tube before DRG11, and unlike DRG11 it is expressed in the brain and therefore must be regulated by other transcriptional regulatory elements. DRAGON shares high sequence homology with two other GPI-anchored membrane proteins: the mouse ortholog of chick repulsive guidance molecule (mRGM), which is expressed in the mouse nervous system in areas complementary to DRAGON, and DRAGON-like muscle (DL-M), the expression of which is restricted to skeletal and cardiac muscle. A comparative genomic analysis indicates that the family of RGM-related genes--mRGM, DRAGON, and DL-M--are highly conserved among mammals, zebrafish, chick, and Caenorhabditis elegans but not Drosophila. DRAGON, RGM, and DL-M mRNA expression in the zebrafish embryo is similar to that in the mouse. Neuronal cell adhesion assays indicate that DRAGON promotes and mRGM reduces adhesion of mouse DRG neurons. We show that DRAGON interacts with itself homophilically. The dynamic expression, ordered spatial localization, and adhesive properties of the RGM-related family of membrane-associated proteins are compatible with specific roles in development.

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