The evolution of ependymin-related proteins

Carmel McDougall, Michael Hammond, Simon C. Dailey, Ildiko M. L. Somorjai, Scott Cummins, Bernard Degnan

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Ependymins were originally defined as fish-specific secreted glycoproteins involved in central nervous system plasticity and memory formation. Subsequent research revealed that these proteins represent a fish-specific lineage of a larger ependymin-related protein family (EPDRs). EPDRs have now been identified in a number of bilaterian animals and have been implicated in diverse non-neural functions. The recent discoveries of putative EPDRs in unicellular holozoans and an expanded EPDR family with potential roles in conspecific communication in crown-of-thorns starfish suggest that the distribution and diversity of EPDRs is significantly broader than currently understood.
Results:We undertook a systematic survey to determine the distribution and evolution of EPDRs in eukaryotes. In addition to Bilateria, EPDR genes were identified in Cnidaria, Placozoa, Porifera, Choanoflagellatea, Filasterea, Apusozoa, Amoebozoa, Charophyta and Percolozoa, and tentatively in Cercozoa and the orphan group Malawimonadidae. EPDRs appear to be absent from prokaryotes and many eukaryote groups including ecdysozoans, fungi, stramenopiles, alveolates, haptistans and cryptistans. The EPDR family can be divided into two major clades and has undergone lineage-specific expansions in a number of metazoan lineages, including in poriferans, molluscs and cephalochordates. Variation in a core set of conserved residues in EPDRs reveals the presence of three distinct protein types; however, 3D modelling predicts overall protein structures to be similar.

Conclusions:  Our results reveal an early eukaryotic origin of the EPDR gene family and a dynamic pattern of gene duplication and gene loss in animals. This research provides a phylogenetic framework for the analysis of the functional evolution of this gene family.
Original languageEnglish
Article number182
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2018


  • Ependymin
  • EPDRs
  • MERPs
  • Gene duplication
  • Gene loss


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