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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular patterning of the oikoplastic epithelium of the larvacean tunicate Oikopleura dioica.

Appendicularia are protochordates that rely on a complex mucous secretion, the house, to filter food particles from seawater. A monolayer of cells covering the trunk of the animal, the oikoplastic epithelium, secretes the house. This epithelium contains a fixed number of cells arranged in characteristic patterns with distinct sizes and nuclear morphologies. Certain house structures appear to be spatially related to defined, underlying groups of cells in the epithelium. We show that the house is composed of at least 20 polypeptides, a number of which are highly glycosylated, with glycosidase treatments resulting in molecular mass shifts exceeding 100 kDa. Nanoelectrospray tandem mass spectrometric microsequencing of house polypeptides was used to design oligonucleotides to screen an adult Oikopleura dioica cDNA library. This resulted in the isolation of cDNAs coding for three different proteins, oikosin 1, oikosin 2, and oikosin 3. The latter two are novel proteins unrelated to any known data base entries. Oikosin 1 has 13 repeats of a Cys domain, previously identified as a subunit of repeating sequences in some vertebrate mucins. We also find one repeat of this Cys domain in human cartilage intermediate layer protein but find no evidence of this domain in any invertebrate species, including those for which entire genomes have been sequenced. The three oikosins show distinct and complementary expression patterns restricted to the oikoplastic epithelium. This easily accessible epithelium, with differential gene expression patterns in readily identifiable groups of cells with distinctive nuclear morphologies, is a highly attractive model system for molecular studies of pattern formation.[1]


  1. Molecular patterning of the oikoplastic epithelium of the larvacean tunicate Oikopleura dioica. Spada, F., Steen, H., Troedsson, C., Kallesoe, T., Spriet, E., Mann, M., Thompson, E.M. J. Biol. Chem. (2001) [Pubmed]
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