A novel gene family encoding leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins differentially expressed in the nervous system.
Leucine-rich repeat transmembrane neuronal proteins (LRRTMs) form in mammals a family of four postsynaptic adhesion proteins, which have been shown to bind neurexins and heparan sulphate proteoglycan (HSPG) glypican on the presynaptic side. Mutations in the genes encoding LRRTMs and neurexins are implicated in human cognitive disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Our analysis shows that in most jawed vertebrates, lrrtm1, lrrtm2, and lrrtm3 genes are nested on opposite strands of large conserved intron of a-catenin genes ctnna2, ctnna1, and ctnna3, respectively. No lrrtm genes could be found in tunicates or lancelets, while two lrrtm genes are found in the lamprey genome, one of which is adjacent to a single ctnna homolog. Based on similar highly positive net charge of lamprey LRRTMs and the HSPG-binding LRRTM3 and LRRTM4 proteins, we speculate that the ancestral LRRTM might have bound HSPG before acquiring neurexins as binding partners. Our model suggests that lrrtm gene translocated into the large ctnna intron in early vertebrates, and that subsequent duplications resulted in three lrrtm/ctnna gene pairs present in most jawed vertebrates. However, we detected three prominent exceptions: (1) the lrrtm3/ctnna3 gene structure is absent in the ray-finned fish genomes, (2) the genomes of clawed frogs contain ctnna1 but lack the corresponding nested (lrrtm2) gene, and (3) contain lrrtm3 gene in the syntenic position but lack the corresponding host (ctnna3) gene. We identified several other protein-coding nested gene structures of which either the host or the nested gene has presumably been lost in the frog or chicken lineages. Interestingly, majority of these nested genes comprise LRR domains. Citation: Uvarov P, Kajander T, Airaksinen MS (2014) Origin and Loss of Nested LRRTM/a-Catenin Genes during Vertebrate Evolution. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89910. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089910 Editor: Stephan C. F. Neuhauss, University Zürich, Switzerland Received October 11, 2013; Accepted January 25, 2014; Published February 24, 2014 Copyright: 2014 Uvarov et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: This study was supported by grants from the Academy of Finland and the Sigrid Juselius Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. * E-mail: email@example.com