Evidence for the Heparin-Binding Ability of the Ascidian Xlink Domain and Insight into the Evolution of the Xlink Domain in Chordates
The vertebrate Xlink domain is found in two types of genes: lecticans and their associated hyaluronan-and-proteoglycan-binding-link-proteins (HAPLNs), which are components of the extracellular matrix, and those represented by CD44 and stabilins, which are expressed on the surface of lymphocytes. In both types of genes, Xlink functions as a hyaluronan binding domain. We have already reported that protochordate ascidians possess only the latter type of gene. The present analysis of the expression of ascidian Xlink domain genes revealed that these genes function in blood cell migration and apoptosis. While the Xlink domain is found in various metazoans, including ascidians and nematodes, hyaluronan is believed to be specific for vertebrates. In comprehensive genome surveys for hyaluronan synthase (HAS), we found no HAS gene in ascidians. We also established that hyaluronan is absent from the ascidian body biochemically. Therefore, ascidians possess the Xlink domain, but they lack HA. We recovered one ascidian Xlink domain gene that encoded a heparin-binding protein, although it shows no affinity for hyaluronan. Based on these findings, we conclude that in invertebrates, the Xlink domain serves as heparin-binding protein domain and functions in blood cell migration and apoptosis. Its binding affinity for HA might have been acquired in the vertebrate lineage.
KeywordsHyaluronan Hyaluronan synthase (HAS) Ci-Link Xlink Ascidian Heparin
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