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Evol Dev. 2010 Nov-Dec;12(6):541-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2010.00440.x.

Two families of Xenopus tropicalis skeletal genes display well-conserved expression patterns with mammals in spite of their highly divergent regulatory regions.

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1
Departamento de Biología Celular, Universidad de Concepción, Chile.

Abstract

The origin of bone and cartilage, and their subsequent diversification in specific vertebrate lineages, is intimately linked to the precise transcriptional control of genes involved in matrix mineralization. It is not yet clear, however, to which extent the osteoblasts, osteocytes, and chondrocytes of each of the major vertebrate groups express similar sets of genes. In this study we have focused on the evolution of two independent families of genes that code for extracellular matrix components of the skeleton and that include secreted protein, acidic, cysteine-rich (SPARC), bone sialoprotein (BSP) and dentin matrix protein 1 (DMP1) paralogues, and the osteocalcin (OC) and matrix gla protein (MGP) paralogues. Analyzing developing Xenopus tropicalis skeletal elements, we show that the expression patterns of these genes are well conserved with mammals. The fact that only a few osteoblasts express DMP1, while only some osteocytes express SPARC and BSP, reveals a significant degree of molecular heterogeneity for these two populations of X. tropicalis cells, similarly to what has been described in mouse. Although the cis-regulatory modules (CRM) of the mammalian OC, DMP1, and BSP orthologs have been functionally characterized, we found no evidence of sequence similarity between these regions and the X. tropicalis genome. Furthermore, these regulatory elements evolve rapidly, as they are only poorly conserved between human and rodents. Therefore, the SPARC/DMP1/BSP and the OC/MGP families provide a good paradigm to study how transcriptional output can be maintained in skeletal cells despite extensive sequence divergence of CRM.

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