δ-Protocadherins: unique structures and functions
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δ-Protocadherins constitute a group of cadherins characterized by several conserved motifs in their cytoplasmic domains. We present a phylogenetic analysis that further divides this group into δ1-protocadherins (comprising protocadherin-1, −7, −9 and −11 or -X/Y) and δ2-protocadherins (comprising protocadherin-8, −10, −17, −18 and −19). The δ-protocadherin genes, which are located on different chromosomes in man and mouse, have a similar gene structure. They are expressed as multiple splice forms, differing mostly in their cytoplasmic domains. Some δ-protocadherins were reported to mediate weak cell-cell adhesion in vitro and cell sorting in vivo. In addition, individual δ-protocadherins might play important roles in signaling pathways, as they bind to proteins such as TAF1/Set, protein phosphatase-1α and the Frizzled 7 receptor. The spatiotemporally restricted expression of δ-protocadherins in different tissues and species and the results of their functional analysis, mainly in Xenopus, suggest that they play multiple, tightly regulated roles in vertebrate development.
Key words.Phylogenetic analysis gene structure alternative splicing cell adhesion intracellular signalling expression pattern protocadherins
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