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SCPP genes in the coelacanth: Tissue mineralization genes shared by sarcopterygians


  • Kazuhiko Kawasaki,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
    • Correspondence to: Kazuhiko Kawasaki, Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, 409 Carpenter building, University Park, PA 16802.


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  • Chris T. Amemiya

    1. Department of Molecular Genetics, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle, Washington
    2. Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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  • Conflicts of interest: None.


The coelacanth is the basal-most extant sarcopterygian that has teeth and tooth-like structures, comprising bone, dentin, and enamel or enameloid. Formation of these tissues involves many members of the secretory calcium-binding protein (SCPP) family. In tetrapods, acidic-residue-rich SCPPs are used in mineralization of bone and dentin, whereas Pro/Gln-rich SCPPs participate in enamel formation. Teleosts also employ many SCPPs for tissue mineralization. Nevertheless, the repertoire of SCPPs is largely different in teleosts and tetrapods; hence, filling this gap would be critical to elucidate early evolution of mineralized tissues in osteichthyans. In the present study, we searched for SCPP genes in the coelacanth genome and identified 11, of which two have clear orthologs in both tetrapods and teleosts, seven only in tetrapods, and two in neither of them. Given the divergence times of these vertebrate lineages, our discovery of this many SCPP genes shared between the coelacanth and tetrapods, but not with teleosts, suggests a complicated evolutionary scheme of SCPP genes in early osteichthyans. Our investigation also revealed both conserved and derived characteristics of SCPPs in the coelacanth and other vertebrates. Notably, acidic SCPPs independently evolved various acidic repeats in different lineages, while maintaining high acidity, presumably important for interactions with calcium. Furthermore, the three Pro/Gln-rich SCPP genes, required for mineralizing enamel matrix and confirmed only in tetrapods, were all identified in the coelacanth, strongly suggesting that enamel is equivalent in the coelacanth and tetrapods. This finding corroborates the previous proposition that true enamel evolved much earlier than the origin of tetrapods. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 322B: 390–402, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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