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Dev Comp Immunol. 2004 May 3;28(5):461-85.

Transforming growth factor-beta-related proteins: an ancestral and widespread superfamily of cytokines in metazoans.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie et Biotechnologies Marines, IBFA, UMR Physiologie et Ecophysiologie des Mollusques Marins IFREMER-Universit√© de Caen, Esplanade de la Paix, Caen 14032, France.


Members of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) superfamily of cell signalling polypeptides have attracted much attention because of their ability, from nematodes to mammals, to control cellular functions that in turn, regulate embryo development and tissue homeostasis. On the basis of structure similarities, the TGF-beta members (ligands, receptors and Smads) are subdivided into TGF-beta sensu stricto, bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) and activins. Although BMP is the best characterized pathway in metazoans, recent findings in molluscs and non-bilateria as well as the analysis of nematode and arthropod genomes, demonstrate the early origin of these distinct subfamilies of ligands, receptors and Smads. This report analyses the large diversity of ligands, receptors and Smads in metazoans from cnidarians and molluscs to mammals. The contribution of new data, mainly from the lophochotrozoan Crassostrea gigas and other organisms on the fringe of the 'branded model organisms', will help us to demonstrate that TGF-betas are probably the most ancestral active cytokines characterized at the molecular level in both Protostome and Deuterostome lineages.

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