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Gene. 2004 Dec 22;343(2):231-8.

A fragile X mental retardation-like gene in a cnidarian.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Heidelberg, INF 230, Heidelberg 69120, Germany.


The fragile X mental retardation syndrome in humans is caused by a mutational loss of function of the fragile X mental retardation gene 1 (FMR1). FMR1 is an RNA-binding protein, involved in the development and function of the nervous system. Despite of its medical significance, the evolutionary origin of FMR1 has been unclear. Here, we report the molecular characterization of HyFMR1, an FMR1 orthologue, from the cnidarian hydroid Hydractinia echinata. Cnidarians are the most basal metazoans possessing neurons. HyFMR1 is expressed throughout the life cycle of Hydractinia. Its expression pattern correlates to the position of neurons and their precursor stem cells in the animal. Our data indicate that the origin of the fraxile X related (FXR) protein family dates back at least to the common ancestor of cnidarians and bilaterians. The lack of FXR proteins in other invertebrates may have been due to gene loss in particular lineages.

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