Development Genes and Evolution

, Volume 217, Issue 7, pp 549–554 | Cite as

Characterization of amphioxus GDF8/11 gene, an archetype of vertebrate MSTN and GDF11

  • Fuguo Xing
  • Xungang TanEmail author
  • Pei-Jun ZhangEmail author
  • Junkai Ma
  • Yuqing Zhang
  • Peng Xu
  • Yongli Xu
Sequence Corner


MSTN, also known as growth and differentiation factor 8 (GDF8), and GDF11 are members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) subfamily. They have been thought to be derived from one ancestral gene. In the present study, we report the isolation and characterization of an invertebrate GDF8/11 homolog from the amphioxus (Branchiostoma belcheri tsingtauense). The amphioxus GDF8/11 gene consists of five exons flanked by four introns, which have two more exons and introns than that of other species. In intron III, a possible transposable element was identified. This suggested that this intron might be derived from transposon. The amphioxus GDF8/11 cDNA encodes a polypeptide of 419 amino acid residues. Phologenetic analysis shows that the GDF8/11 is at the base of vertebrate MSTNs and GDF11s. This result might prove that the GDF8/11 derived from one ancestral gene and the amphioxus GDF8/11 may be the common ancestral gene, and also the gene duplication event generating MSTN and GDF11 occurred before the divergence of vertebrates and after or at the divergence of amphioxus from vertebrates. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction results showed that the GDF8/11 gene was expressed in new fertilized cell, early gastrulation, and knife-shaped embryo, which was different from that in mammals. It suggested that the GDF8/11 gene might possess additional functions other than regulating muscle growth in amphioxus.


Amphioxus Branchiostoma belcheri GDF8 GDF11 MSTN TGF-β 



We would like to thank Shao-Jun Du (Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute) for his critical review and constructive suggestion. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China to Pei Jun Zhang and Shao-Jun Du for International Cooperation and Exchange Projects and the Grant for CAS Oversea Team on MFG.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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