Evidence for the evolution of tenascin and fibronectin early in the chordate lineage

Richard P Tucker, Ruth Chiquet-Ehrismann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Fibronectin and tenascin are extracellular matrix glycoproteins that play important roles in cell adhesion and motility. In a previous study we provided evidence that tenascin first appeared early in the chordate lineage. As tenascin has been proposed to act, in part, through modulation of cell-fibronectin interactions, we sought here to identify fibronectin genes in non-vertebrate chordates and other invertebrates to determine if tenascin and fibronectin evolved separately or together, and to identify phylogenetically conserved features of both proteins. We found that the genome of the urochordate Ciona savignyi contains both a tenascin gene and a gene encoding a fibronectin-like protein with fibronectin type 1, 2 and 3 repeats. The genome of the cephalochordate Branchiostoma floridae (amphioxus) also has a tenascin gene. However, we could not identify a fibronectin-like gene in B. floridae, nor could we identify fibronectin or tenascin genes in echinoderms, protostomes or cnidarians. If urochordates are more closely related to vertebrates, tenascin may have evolved before fibronectin in an ancestor common to tunicates and amphioxus. Alternatively, tenascin and fibronectin may have evolved in an ancestor common to B. floridae and C. savignyi and the fibronectin gene was subsequently lost in the cephalochordate lineage. The fibronectin-like gene from C. savignyi does not encode the RGD motif for integrin binding found in all vertebrate fibronectins, and it lacks most of the fibronectin type 1 domains believed to be critical for fibrillogenesis. In contrast, the tenascin gene in B. floridae encodes multiple RGD motifs, suggesting that integrin binding is fundamental to tenascin function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-434
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Evolution
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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