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

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is more highly conserved in structure and function than nerve growth factor during vertebrate evolution.

Mammalian nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF) are members of a protein family with perfectly conserved domains arranged around the cysteine residues thought to stabilize an invariant three-dimensional scaffold in addition to distinct sequence motifs that convey different neuronal functions. To study their structural and functional conservation during evolution, we have compared NGF and BDNF from a lower vertebrate, the teleost fish Xiphophorus, with the mammalian homologues. Genomic clones encoding fish NGF and BDNF were isolated by cross-hybridization using probes from the cloned mammalian factors. Fish NGF and BDNF were expressed by means of recombinant vaccinia viruses, purified, and their neuronal survival specificities for different classes of neurons were found to mirror those of the mammalian factors. The half-maximal survival concentration for chick sensory neurons was 60 pg/ml for both fish and mammalian purified recombinant BDNF. However, the activity of recombinant fish NGF on both chick sensory and sympathetic neurons was 6 ng/ml, 75-fold lower than that of mouse NGF. The different functional conservation of NGF and BDNF is also reflected in their structures. The DNA-deduced amino acid sequences of processed mature fish NGF and BDNF showed, compared to mouse, 63% and 90% identity, respectively, indicating that NGF had reached an optimized structure later than BDNF. The retrograde extrapolation of these data indicates that NGF and BDNF evolved at strikingly different rates from a common ancestral gene about 600 million years ago. By RNA gel blot analysis NGF mRNA was detected during late embryonic development; BDNF was present in adult brain.[1]


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