Conservation and Novelty in the Evolution of Cell Adhesion and Extracellular Matrix Genes

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Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 989-994
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5455.989

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New proteins and modules have been invented throughout evolution. Gene “birth dates” in Caenorhabditis elegansrange from the origins of cellular life through adaptation to a soil habitat. Possibly half are “metazoan” genes, having arisen sometime between the yeast-metazoan and nematode-chordate separations. These include basement membrane and cell adhesion molecules implicated in tissue organization. By contrast, epithelial surfaces facing the environment have specialized components invented within the nematode lineage. Moreover, interstitial matrices were likely elaborated within the vertebrate lineage. A strategy for concerted evolution of new gene families, as well as conservation of adaptive genes, may underlie the differences between heterochromatin and euchromatin.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hutter{at}

  • Present address: Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

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