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Dev Genes Evol. 2009 Oct;219(9-10):509-21. doi: 10.1007/s00427-009-0313-9. Epub 2009 Dec 31.

Molecular evolution of SPARC: absence of the acidic module and expression in the endoderm of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis.

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Laboratory of Tissue Repair and Regeneration, Matrix Dynamics Group, University of Toronto, 150 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The matricellular glycoprotein SPARC is composed of three functional domains that are evolutionarily conserved in organisms ranging from nematodes to mammals: a Ca(2+)-binding glutamic acid-rich acidic domain at the N-terminus (domain I), a follistatin-like module (domain II), and an extracellular Ca(2+)-binding (EC) module that contains two EF-hands and two collagen-binding epitopes (domain III). We report that four SPARC orthologs (designated nvSPARC1-4) are expressed by the genome of the starlet anemone Nematostella vectensis, a diploblastic basal cnidarian composed of an ectoderm and endoderm separated by collagen-based mesoglea. We also report that domain I is absent from all N. vectensis SPARC orthologs. In situ hybridization data indicate that N. vectensis SPARC mRNAs are restricted to the endoderm during post-gastrula development. The absence of the Ca(2+)-binding N-terminal domain in cnidarians and conservation of collagen-binding epitopes suggests that SPARC first evolved as a collagen-binding matricellular glycoprotein, an interaction likely to be dependent on the binding of Ca(2+)-ions to the two EF-hands in the EC domain. We propose that further Ca(2+)-dependent activities emerged with the acquisition of an acidic N-terminal module in triplobastic organisms.

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