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J Biol Chem. 2012 Mar 2;287(10):6974-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.C111.323618. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

The signaling protein CD38 is essential for early embryonic development.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London, Anatomy Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


CD38 is a multifunctional protein possessing ADP-ribosyl cyclase activity responsible for both the synthesis and the degradation of several Ca(2+)-mobilizing second messengers. Although a variety of functions have been ascribed to CD38, such as immune responses, insulin secretion, and social behavior in adults, nothing is known of its role during embryonic development when Ca(2+) signals feature prominently. Here, we report the identification and functional expression of CD38 from Xenopus laevis, a key model organism for the study of vertebrate development. We show that CD38 expression and endogenous ADP-ribosyl cyclase activity are developmentally regulated during cellular differentiation. Chemical or molecular inhibition of CD38 abolished ADP-ribosyl cyclase activity and disrupted elongation of the anterior-posterior axis and differentiation of skeletal muscle, culminating in embryonic death. Our data uncover a previously unknown role for CD38 as an essential regulator of embryonic development.

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