Teneurins: Domain Architecture, Evolutionary Origins, and Patterns of Expression

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Disruption of teneurin expression results in abnormal neural networks, but just how teneurins support the development of the central nervous system remains an area of active research. This review summarizes some of what we know about the functions of the various domains of teneurins, the possible evolution of teneurins from a bacterial toxin, and the intriguing patterns of teneurin expression. Teneurins are a family of type-2 transmembrane proteins. The N-terminal intracellular domain can be processed and localized to the nucleus, but the significance of this nuclear localization is unknown. The extracellular domain of teneurins is largely composed of tyrosine-aspartic acid repeats that fold into a hollow barrel, and the C-terminal domains of teneurins are stuffed, and least partly, into the barrel. A 6-bladed beta-propeller is found at the other end of the barrel. The same arrangement—6-bladed beta-propeller, tyrosine-aspartic acid repeat barrel, and the C-terminal domain inside the barrel—is seen in toxic proteins from bacteria, and there is evidence that teneurins may have evolved from a gene encoding a prokaryotic toxin via horizontal gene transfer into an ancestral choanoflagellate. Patterns of teneurin expression are often, but not always, complementary. In the central nervous system, where teneurins are best studied, interconnected populations of neurons often express the same teneurin. For example, in the chicken embryo neurons forming the tectofugal pathway express teneurin-1, whereas neurons forming the thalamofugal pathway express teneurin-2. In Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, zebrafish and mice, misexpression or knocking out teneurin expression leads to abnormal connections in the neural networks that normally express the relevant teneurin. Teneurins are also expressed in non-neuronal tissue during development, and in at least some regions the patterns of non-neuronal expression are also complementary. The function of teneurins outside the nervous system remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number938
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 11 2018


  • ABC toxin
  • brain
  • development
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • odz
  • teneurin
  • YD protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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