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PLoS One. 2010 Nov 11;5(11):e15506. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015506.

Nme gene family evolutionary history reveals pre-metazoan origins and high conservation between humans and the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis.

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UMR 6632/IFR48, Université de Provence Aix Marseille 1/CNRS, F-13000, Marseille, France.



The Nme gene family is involved in multiple physiological and pathological processes such as cellular differentiation, development, metastatic dissemination, and cilia functions. Despite the known importance of Nme genes and their use as clinical markers of tumor aggressiveness, the associated cellular mechanisms remain poorly understood. Over the last 20 years, several non-vertebrate model species have been used to investigate Nme functions. However, the evolutionary history of the family remains poorly understood outside the vertebrate lineage. The aim of the study was thus to elucidate the evolutionary history of the Nme gene family in Metazoans.


Using a total of 21 eukaryote species including 14 metazoans, the evolutionary history of Nme genes was reconstructed in the metazoan lineage. We demonstrated that the complexity of the Nme gene family, initially thought to be restricted to chordates, was also shared by the metazoan ancestor. We also provide evidence suggesting that the complexity of the family is mainly a eukaryotic innovation, with the exception of Nme8 that is likely to be a choanoflagellate/metazoan innovation. Highly conserved gene structure, genomic linkage, and protein domains were identified among metazoans, some features being also conserved in eukaryotes. When considering the entire Nme family, the starlet sea anemone is the studied metazoan species exhibiting the most conserved gene and protein sequence features with humans. In addition, we were able to show that most of the proteins known to interact with human NME proteins were also found in starlet sea anemone.


Together, our observations further support the association of Nme genes with key cellular functions that have been conserved throughout metazoan evolution. Future investigations of evolutionarily conserved Nme gene functions using the starlet sea anemone could shed new light on a wide variety of key developmental and cellular processes.

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