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Biol Open. 2013 Feb 15;2(2):217-26. doi: 10.1242/bio.20123103. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

A thrombospondin in the anthozoan Nematostella vectensis is associated with the nervous system and upregulated during regeneration.

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Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California , Davis, CA 95616 , USA.


Thrombospondins are multimeric extracellular matrix glycoproteins that play important roles in development, synaptogenesis and wound healing in mammals. We previously identified four putative thrombospondins in the genome of the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. This study presents the first analysis of these thrombospondins, with the goals of understanding fundamental roles of thrombospondins in the Eumetazoa. Reverse transcriptase PCR showed that each of the N. vectensis thrombospondins (Nv85341, Nv22035, Nv168100 and Nv30790) is transcribed. Three of the four thrombospondins include an RGD or KGD motif in their thrombospondin type 3 repeats at sites equivalent to mammalian thrombospondins, suggesting ancient roles as RGD integrin ligands. Phylogenetic analysis based on the C-terminal regions demonstrated a high level of sequence diversity between N. vectensis thrombospondins. A full-length cDNA sequence was obtained for Nv168100 (NvTSP168100), which has an unusual domain organization. Immunohistochemistry with an antibody to NvTSP168100 revealed labeling of neuron-like cells in the mesoglea of the retractor muscles and the pharynx. In situ hybridization and quantitative PCR showed that NvTSP168100 is upregulated during regeneration. Immunohistochemistry of the area of regeneration identified strong immunostaining of the glycocalyx, the carbohydrate-rich matrix coating the epidermis, and electron microscopy identified changes in glycocalyx organization during regeneration. Thus, N. vectensis thrombospondins share structural features with thrombospondins from mammals and may have roles in the nervous system and in matrix reorganization during regeneration.


Cnidaria; Extracellular matrix; Glycocalyx; Mesoglea; Nervous system; Regeneration

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