Molecular phylogeny of the antiangiogenic and neurotrophic serpin, pigment epithelium derived factor in vertebrates
© Xu et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2006
Received: 03 June 2006
Accepted: 04 October 2006
Published: 04 October 2006
Pigment epithelium derived factor (PEDF), a member of the serpin family, regulates cell proliferation, promotes survival of neurons, and blocks growth of new blood vessels in mammals. Defining the molecular phylogeny of PEDF by bioinformatic analysis is one approach to understanding the link between its gene structure and its function in these biological processes.
From a comprehensive search of available DNA databases we identified a single PEDF gene in all vertebrate species examined. These included four mammalian and six non-mammalian vertebrate species in which PEDF had not previously been described. A five gene cluster around PEDF was found in an approximate 100 kb region in mammals, birds, and amphibians. In ray-finned fish these genes are scattered over three chromosomes although only one PEDF gene was consistently found. The PEDF gene is absent in invertebrates including Drosophila melanogaster (D. melanogaster), Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), and sea squirt (C. intestinalis). The PEDF gene is transcribed in all vertebrate phyla, suggesting it is biologically active throughout vertebrate evolution. The multiple actions of PEDF are likely conserved in evolution since it has the same gene structure across phyla, although the size of the gene ranges from 48.3 kb in X. tropicalis to 2.9 kb in fugu, with human PEDF at a size of 15.6 kb. A strong similarity in the proximal 200 bp of the PEDF promoter in mammals suggests the existence of a possible regulatory region across phyla. Using a non-synonymous/synonymous substitution rate ratio we show that mammalian and fish PEDFs have similar ratios of <0.13, reflecting a strong purifying selection of PEDF gene. A large number of repetitive transposable elements of the SINE and LINE class were found with random distribution in both the promoter and introns of mammalian PEDF.
The PEDF gene first appears in vertebrates and our studies suggest that the regulation and biological actions of this gene are preserved across vertebrates. This comprehensive analysis of the PEDF gene across phyla provides new information that will aid further characterization of common functional motifs of this serpin in biological processes.
The large supergene family of serpins encodes two groups of proteins. One group comprises the predominant family of protease inhibitors in mammals and regulates cascades such as inflammation, blood coagulation and extracellular matrix remodeling. The second group represents a substantial number of serpins that, though structurally similar, are not thought to be inhibitors of specific proteases but have important functions in a wide range of cellular processes.
Pigment Epithelium Derived Factor (PEDF) is a member of the second group of serpins. It is not known to target any specific protease but is associated with two important cellular processes: proliferation and survival. By shifting the balance between proliferation and differentiation, PEDF slows the expansion of tumor cells [1–3]. In cultured fibroblasts PEDF promotes exit from the cell cycle and movement into a GO phase . PEDF also inhibits the growth of endothelial cells that form new blood vessels in cancers and in some neovascular diseases, particularly in the eye [1–3, 5–7]. More recently PEDF has been shown to promote self-renewal of adult stem cells .
In addition to its effects on proliferation, PEDF increases survival of neurons. It interferes with progression of neurodegenerative cascades promoted by axotomy, glutamate excitotoxicity, and oxidative stress in many types of neurons (reviewed in ). Similarly, this serpin protects vertebrate photoreceptor cells from damage induced by removal of trophic support [10, 11] or exposure to chronic bright light .
The multiple biological roles of this serpin have been confirmed in PEDF null mice that show epithelial hyperplasia, increased endothelial cell proliferation, and increased microvessel density in several organs . We have previously identified potentially important functional domains in the PEDF molecule, several of which have been tested in both in vitro and in vivo experimental models [14–16].
PEDF is a 50 kDa secreted protein and is widely distributed in human tissues [17–19]. Characterization of the human gene for PEDF [19, 20] paved the way for the derivation of its crystal structure at a resolution of 2.85Å .
Serpins have been organized into 16 clades based on the sequence similarities of the proteins and exon-intron organization of the genes [22, 23]. PEDF falls into the serpin Fl clade based on the few mammalian sequences available. In this study, we have used computational tools to identify PEDF, and other serpin, genes in a variety of additional species. Comparison of the structure of the PEDF gene, and the surrounding genes, in various species has extended our early work on the evolutionary conservation and genomic structure of PEDF . Using computational tools we have identified PEDF genes in 10 additional species and 20 additional serpin genes. We have confirmed that many of these additional PEDF sequences are expressed by RT-PCR. These new sequences have allowed the refinement of the serpin phylogenetic tree and show the relatedness of PEDF to other serpins.
PEDF coding sequences is present only in the vertebrates
PEDF sequences have previously been described from human (Homo sapiens), mouse (Mus musculus), cow (Bos taurus), and rat (Rattus norvegicus). We obtained the PEDF coding sequences for chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes, [GenBank:BK005454]), chicken (Gallus gallus, [GenBank:BK005453]) and fugu (Fugu rubripes, [GenBank:BK005455]) from genomic databases, and have used other databases to identify or assemble the coding sequences for medaka (Oryzias latipes, [GenBank:BK005456]), pig (Sus scrofa, [GenBank:BK005457]), trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, [GenBank:BK005458]), African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis, [GenBank:BK005459]), western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis, [GenBank:BK005463]), zebrafish (Danio rerio, [GenBank:BK005460]), and dog (Canis familiaris, [GenBank:BK005764]) PEDF. In total we have identified the PEDF sequence in an additional three mammalian and seven non-mammalian species. We did not find a PEDF gene in the fly (D. melanogaster) or worm (C. elegans) genome databases, or in the sea squirt (C. intestinalis) the closest invertebrate to the vertebrate lineage.
Serpin F2 and C1 inhibitor are the closest relatives of PEDF
Nucleotide comparison of PEDF exons across species
The PEDF gene is transcribed in many vertebrate species
PEDF gene organization is conserved in vertebrates
Exon and intron sizes for the PEDF gene from human, dog, mouse, chick and fugu
The complete genome sequences of human, mouse, chick, fugu, western clawed frog and zebrafish were used to examine the conservation of exon-intron splice junctions among the species. The 5' ag and 3' gt intron/exon splice junctions were conserved in all the species (Additional file 2). Statistically significant sequence similarities in the PEDF exons are seen between human and mouse, and between mammals and chick in exons 3–7, but no significant sequence homologies were detected in PEDF introns (data not shown). From this analysis we predict that a functional PEDF protein is produced in each of these species.
A 200 bp proximal PEDF promoter region is conserved in vertebrates
SINE and LINE transposable elements are present in the introns, exons, and promoter sequences of the mammalian PEDF gene
Conservation of order of genes flanking the PEDF sequence
PEDF dN/dS ratio in mammals and fishes show that the gene is under strict purifying selection
Pairwise dN/dS ratio of PEDF CDS
Discussions and conclusions
PEDF is a unique member of the serpin supergene family. It functions as one of the most potent antiangiogenic factors so far described, is neuroprotective to cells in many parts of the nervous system, regulates the kinetics of exit from stem cell pools and inhibits growth of a number of tumors [8, 9, 27–30]. There is evidence that these diverse functions may be due to the activation of multiple signaling cascades in a cell type and microenvironment specific manner [15, 31, 32].
PEDF is only found in vertebrates
We found a single PEDF gene in all vertebrate phyla examined from fish to mammals. We did not find PEDF homologues in fly, worm, or the sea squirt even though these species have many other easily detectable serpin genes. Recent phylogenetic analyses of genomic data indicate that tunicates, which comprise sea squirts, appendicularians and salps, are the closest living relatives of vertebrates . Thus, it is likely that the PEDF gene evolved after the separation of the vertebrate lineage about 550 million years ago but before the separation of the major vertebrate phyla, at least 300 million years ago.
Several differences in structure and development between invertebrates and vertebrates may explain the need for regulatory factors such as PEDF. Most invertebrates develop largely in a strict lineage from a limited set of precursors. Vertebrates tend to rely more on generation of a pool of stem cells and from which differentiated progeny arise. PEDF plays an important role in this by regulating the size of the pool of stem cells . As vertebrates evolved a vascular system, genes such as PEDF may have become essential to maintain the structural and functional integrity of the newly formed vessels. In human neovascular diseases, there is evidence that regulation of the balance between vascular quiescence and vascular proliferation is critical. Two factors implicated in maintaining this equilibrium are the antiangiogenic PEDF and the proangiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) [27, 32]. VEGF homologues are found in insects where they function as regulators of hematopoetic cell production [34, 35]. In early vascular evolution, the activity of VEGF could have been modified to promote vessel growth. At the same time, PEDF could have evolved to provide a counteracting influence essential to safeguard against abnormal vascular proliferation caused by VEGF. PEDF is also neuroprotective and it is possible that this function became important in vertebrates as they developed longer lifespans and a need to protect neurons against a variety of environmental insults.
Differences in genes flanking PEDF between fish and other vertebrates
Hierarchical clustering of serpin genes confirms that the two most closely related to PEDF are serpin F2/a2-antiplasmin and serpin G1/C1 inhibitor. Serpin F2 is part of the same clade of serpins defined by the exon/intron organization [23, 36]. Like serpin F2/a2-antiplasmin, serpin G1/C1 inhibitor is a classical protease inhibitor. This cluster of three genes is thought to have arisen from a common ancestor and is an example of ancestral serpins diverging into inhibitory and non-inhibitory subgroups. A common ancestral gene could have duplicated to give rise to the precursor of PEDF and the precursor of serpin G1/C1 inhibitor and serpin F2/a2-antiplasmin. The latter precursor then could have duplicated to allow the independent evolution of serpin F2/a2-antiplasmin and serpin G1/C1 inhibitor.
The PEDF region is syntenic in mammals, birds and amphibians, arguing for strong conservation of this gene cluster for a considerable evolutionary time. There are at least two possible mechanisms that maintain the integrity of this gene cluster. First, selective pressure on one gene in the region could create linkage disequilibrium that would effectively reduce structural alterations, which could disrupt the synteny. Second, the existence of rapidly evolving repetitive elements in this region may decrease the probability of chromosome rearrangements. Bony fish can be classified into two groups, the lobe-finned fish and the ray-finned fish. Lobe-finned fish are considered to be the probable ancestors of all land vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, avians, and even amphibians. Ray-finned fish are the dominant group of vertebrates, with over 27,000 species ubiquitous throughout fresh water and marine environments. It has been proposed that a whole genome duplication occurred in the ray-finned fish lineage after its separation from lobe-finned fish about 450 Myr ago [37, 38]. The fish species we examined all belong to the ray-finned fish group. The dispersal in fish of the cluster of genes around PEDF is probably a result of the whole genome duplication. Interestingly, each of the three fish species examined has retained only one copy of PEDF gene. One explanation of this is that PEDF expression is tightly regulated and that it will be very difficult to precisely control it by two separate promoters.
PEDF could play similar roles in all vertebrates
In general, if one gene is under pure natural selection, which removes deleterious mutations from a population, then its dN/dS ratio will be less than 1.0. The smaller is this ratio means more critical functions the gene plays in the organisms. It stands in contrast to positive selection that means this gene is optimizing its function or even adopting a new function which will give the organism some advantage in the environment, and the dN/dS ratio will be greater than 1.0. In this study, the lower dN/dS ratio of mammals, fishes, and frogs analysis suggests that all PEDFs genes through vertebrates are under strict purifying selection, even though the dS and dN rates in fishes are obviously greater than in mammal, but the dN/dS ratios in these two groups are very close. These observations suggest that PEDF genes play critical roles in all vertebrates, and it is also very likely that they work in the same biological processes in the vertebrates.
Conservation of PEDF gene structure through vertebrate species
All PEDF genes show structural conservation of 8 exons and 7 introns, with no evidence of exon shuffling or duplication. There are, however, some interesting size differences between these elements. The overall gene size varies from 2.9 kb in the condensed genome of fugu to 43.8 kb in frog. This variation is, in large part, due to differences in intron sizes. The greatest variability in size relationship was observed in frog, zebrafish, and fugu exons. Five of the exons, consisting entirely of coding sequence, were of identical lengths in human, mouse and chick. Only two exons of fugu PEDF were identical in size to those of the other species. The others had small reductions in length and result in a predicted protein that is only 18 amino acids shorter than human PEDF. The high conservation of the PEDF protein sequence in such distantly related species argues for conservation of the PEDF function throughout evolution. It is possible that the reduced intron sequences of fugu represent the minimum essential component of the gene structure that allows for functional activity of the PEDF gene.
The conservation of the PEDF gene does not extend into the promoter region. Analysis of approximately 5 kb of 5' DNA sequence revealed that only limited regions of homology exist even between mouse and human PEDF. The conserved proximal region does have promoter activity, as judged by transfection experiments . A small group of conserved transcription factor binding sites was identified in the proximal promoter of PEDF. HNF4, hepatocyte nuclear factor 4, controls expression of specific genes in hepatocytes , and is involved with accumulation of hepatic glycogen stores, organization of the sinusoidal endothelium , and maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) . CHOP/C/EBP homologous protein/DNA damage-inducible gene 153 serves as a dominant-negative inhibitor of the transcription factors C/EBP , controls endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-mediated apoptosis, and plays a central role in neuronal apoptosis during brain development . USF is a ubiquitously expressed upstream stimulating factor and a member of the basic-Helix-Loop-Helix-Leucine Zipper transcription factor family with high affinity for cognate E-box regulatory elements. USF controls lipid and glucose metabolism and regulates genes involved in stress and immune responses . Because of the strong conservation of these transcription factors in the mammalian PEDF promoter, we predict that the PEDF gene is under the control of these molecules in mammals and linked to their biological actions. PEDF levels increase in injury and decrease with senescence, elevated oxygen tensions, and during ischemia (reviewed in ), but the regulatory elements responsible for these changes are not yet known.
The varying numbers and positions of repetitive elements in the 5' region may cause a variable positioning of important regulatory regions such that they cannot be detected by routine homology searches. The Alu elements themselves may be another regulatory component of the human PEDF gene. Alu elements are a feature of primates only and related but different sequences are seen in the mouse PEDF promoters. Alu elements, once considered genomic junk, are now believed to contain genetic information important to primate evolution and gene regulation . These elements are peppered throughout the human genome and contain a unique sequence that can be mutated at a single base to create a new splice site and give a different version of a protein . Although Alu sequences are a significant proportion of the human PEDF promoter and introns, PEDF splice variants have not been identified. As with other serpins, one function of these repetitive elements may be to attach the PEDF gene to the nuclear matrix .
In summary, we have derived the structure and sequence of the PEDF gene from a range of vertebrate species. We have assembled PEDF sequences from 10 additional species and these can now be used to help us further understand the structural, regulatory, and functional conservation of this molecule. These new sequences also provide the necessary information to develop specific probes with which to study the expression and function of PEDF in these species. There is strong conservation in defined regions of the PEDF gene suggesting that these conserved sites are critical for function. Knowledge of the evolutionary dynamics of PEDF could be a valuable predictor of the function of this gene and provides the opportunity for understanding the genetics, regulation, and biologically essential domains of this molecule.
Data sources of cDNA and protein sequences
The human, mouse, and rat PEDF cDNA sequence were obtained from the UCSC Genome Bioinformatics Site . A blastp search in a database of predicted genes was performed to detect the PEDF gene in fugu . The non-redundant sequence database and EST database in NCBI were used to perform blastp searches to collect entire or partial cDNA sequences of PEDF and other serpin genes in species of chimpanzee, cow, pig, chick, trout, medaka, zebrafish, African clawed frog, western clawed frog, and dog .
Data source of genome sequences
PEDF genomic sequences for mouse, rat, dog, western clawed frog, zebrafish and fugu were assembled using the BLAT tool in the UCSC Genome Bioinformatics Site . Genomic information for other species was obtained by blastn search of Genome WGS (Whole Shotgun Sequence) database of each species .
Phylogenetic tree analysis
Protein sequences of serpin genes (annotated or non-annotated) for species of sea squirt, fly and worm came from Ensembl database . These sequences and other protein sequences of typical serpin genes in human and mouse were used to construct the phylogenetic tree of serpins. We also used protein sequences of all available PEDF and other serpins in vertebrate species to construct the phylogenetic tree.
All phylogeny trees were constructed using "MEGA", a molecular evolutionary genetics analysis software . All protein sequences were aligned by clustal alignment function, then the bootstrap concensus tree was contructed by UPGMA method.
Sequence similarity comparison between species
DNA Block Aligner was used to align DNA sequences in promoter region between species . The subsequent model was a 3-state Hidden Markov Model (HMM).
Program 'fasta34' was used to pairwisely compare the exon sequences between two species . Then the matrix in Table 1 was constructed by our python codes based on the result came from fasta program.
Sequence repetitive analysis and other software
The promoter sequences of PEDF gene from human and mouse genomes were obtained from UCSC Genome Bioinformatics website  and the possible transcript factor binding sites were examined in the -200 to +1 bp of each promoter sequence using the positional weighting matrices which are from TRANSFAC databases . The footprints of sequence conservation between human and mouse promoters were generated by program Dna Block Aligner came from software package Wise 2.0 .
Total RNA isolation was performed essentially as described before . Primers designed for different species are shown in Additional file 3. cDNA was subjected to semiquantitative PCR using the PEDF primers listed below. PCR conditions used were: denaturing, 95°C for 1 min, annealing, 56°C for 1 min and elongation, 72°C for 1 min, for 30 cycles. PCR amplification products were electrophoresed on 4% agarose gels and bands were visualized by ethidium bromide staining. GAPDH or b-actin gene fragments were amplified as controls to determine PCR and cDNA loading efficiencies.
dN/dS non-synonymous/synonymous substitution rate ratio analysis
CDS sequences for PEDF genes in species were obtained from NCBI. We assembled all CDS sequences and protein sequences of PEDF in three groups from different species: mammal, fish, and frog and stored into different files respectively. These CDS sequences were aligned by our home-made python program according to the alignment of their protein sequence. A program based on maximum likelihood algorithm was used to calculate the rate of nonsynonymous and synonymous substitution (program codeml, from Phylogenetic Analysis by Maximum Likelihood (PAML) website [26, 61].
We run the program codeml in pairwise mode (runmode = -2) to calculate the dN/dS ratio between any two species in the same groups. The result was collected and formatted by our own python program and shown in Table 3. We also run the program codeml in two-value branch mode (runmode = 0, mode = 0; all mammals for one ratio value and all fishes for another ratio value) to calculate the average dN/dS ratio in each group from different species.
A total of 23 new serpin sequences, including 10 PEDF genes, were identified and submitted to NCBI GenBank as TPA (Third Party Annotation) under the accession numbers TPA: BK005442–BK005463 and BK005764. The accession numbers for individual serpin genes are A1, X. tropicalis cDNA [GenBank:BK005442]; A8, cow cDNA [GenBank:BK005443]; B1, pig cDNA [GenBank:BK005444]; C1, pig cDNA [GenBank:BK005445]; C1, X. tropicalis cDNA [GenBank:BK005446]; E2, X. laevis cDNA [GenBank:BK005447]; F2, Fugu cDNA [GenBank:BK005448]; F2, chicken cDNA [GenBank:BK005449]; F2, pig cDNA [GenBank:BK005450]; I1, cow cDNA [GenBank:BK005451]; I1, X. laevis cDNA [GenBank:BK005452]; F1, chicken cDNA [GenBank:BK005453]; F1, chimpanzee cDNA [GenBank:BK005454]; F1, Fugu cDNA [GenBankBK005455:]; F1. medaka cDNA [GenBank:BK005456], F1. pig cDNA [GenBank:BK005457], F1. trout cDNA [GenBank:BK005458], F1, X laevis cDNA [GenBank:BK005459]; F1, zebrafish cDNA [GenBank:BK005460]; E2, chicken cDNA [GenBank:BK005461]; E2, X. tropicalis cDNA [GenBank:BK005462]; F1, X tropicalis cDNA [GenBank:BK005463]; F1, dog cDNA [GenBank:BK005764].
Accession numbers of invertebrate serpins
Sea squirt: [EMBL:ENSCINP00000001388, EMBL:ENSCINP00000006259, EMBL:ENSCINP00000015229, EMBL:ENSCINP00000018441, EMBL:ENSCINP00000024310, EMBL:ENSCINP00000026396, EMBL:ENSCINP00000029020]; Fly: [GenBank:NP_652024, GenBank:NP_609128, GenBank:NP_723300, GenBank:NP_723323, GenBank:NP_787995, GenBank:NP_609172, GenBank:NP_524957, GenBank:NP_609341, GenBank:NP_599148, GenBank:NP_524956, GenBank:NP_610188, GenBank:NP_524955, GenBank:NP_610244, GenBank:NP_610245, GenBank:NP_524958, GenBank:NP_610246, GenBank:NP_524805, GenBank:NP_001027395, GenBank:NP_610261, GenBank:NP_524851, GenBank:NP_610289, GenBank:NP_610633, GenBank:NP_610823, GenBank:NP_611190, GenBank:NP_524953, GenBank:NP_001015428, GenBank:Q9VVWl, GenBank:NP_730388, GenBank:NP_730512, GenBank:NP_649206, GenBank:NP_649207, GenBank:NP_650290, GenBank:NP_788678, GenBank:NP_650427, GenBank:NP_651818, GenBank:NP_524637]; and Worm: [GenBank:NP_503315, GenBank:NP_503318, GenBank:NP_503528, GenBank:NP_504889, GenBank:NP_504890, GenBank:NP_001023824, GenBank:NP_505108, GenBank:NP_507268, GenBank:NP_507269].
pigment epithelium derived factor
long interspersed nuclear element
short interspersed nuclear elements
vascular endothelial growth factor
This work was supported by grants from the NIH, the David Woods Kemper memorial Foundation, The Connecticut Lions and Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.
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- NCBI/Mega BLAST. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/BLAST/mmtrace.shtml]
- Ensembl database. [http://www.ensembl.org]
- MEGA Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis. [http://www.megasoftware.net]
- EMBL-EBI/Wise2. [http://www.ebi.ac.uk/Wise2/index.html]
- FASTA Sequence Comparison at the U. of Virginia. [http://fasta.bioch.virginia.edu/]
- The Repeat Masker Server. [http://repeatmasker.genome.washington.edu/]
- EMBOSS package. [http://emboss.sourceforge.net/]
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