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Dev Biol. 2006 Dec 1;300(1):335-48. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

A genome-wide analysis of biomineralization-related proteins in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.

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Department of Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA.


Biomineralization, the biologically controlled formation of mineral deposits, is of widespread importance in biology, medicine, and engineering. Mineralized structures are found in most metazoan phyla and often have supportive, protective, or feeding functions. Among deuterostomes, only echinoderms and vertebrates produce extensive biomineralized structures. Although skeletons appeared independently in these two groups, ancestors of the vertebrates and echinoderms may have utilized similar components of a shared genetic "toolkit" to carry out biomineralization. The present study had two goals. First, we sought to expand our understanding of the proteins involved in biomineralization in the sea urchin, a powerful model system for analyzing the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie this process. Second, we sought to shed light on the possible evolutionary relationships between biomineralization in echinoderms and vertebrates. We used several computational methods to survey the genome of the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus for gene products involved in biomineralization. Our analysis has greatly expanded the collection of biomineralization-related proteins. We have found that these proteins are often members of small families encoded by genes that are clustered in the genome. Most of the proteins are sea urchin-specific; that is, they have no apparent homologues in other invertebrate deuterostomes or vertebrates. Similarly, many of the vertebrate proteins that mediate mineral deposition do not have counterparts in the S. purpuratus genome. Our findings therefore reveal substantial differences in the primary sequences of proteins that mediate biomineral formation in echinoderms and vertebrates, possibly reflecting loose constraints on the primary structures of the proteins involved. On the other hand, certain cellular and molecular processes associated with earlier events in skeletogenesis appear similar in echinoderms and vertebrates, leaving open the possibility of deeper evolutionary relationships.

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