Tandem duplication and divergence of a sea urchin protein belonging to the troponin C superfamily.
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The Spec1 and Spec2 proteins of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus are related to calmodulin, troponin C, and myosin light chains by sequence similarity in their four calcium binding domains. These domains, the EF-hands, are distinct helix-loop-helix structures of about 40 amino acids. The Spec1 and Spec2 genes are expressed specifically in aboral ectoderm cells of the developing embryo; however, the function of the Spec proteins in these cells is unknown. To find conserved regions of the proteins that might be important for structure and function, Spec homologues from Lytechinus pictus, a distantly related sea urchin, were sought. L. pictus embryos do not synthesize detectable amounts of the 14,000-17,000-Da Spec proteins as determined by two-dimensional gel electro-phoresis, but do synthesize three 34,000-Da proteins that cross-react with Spec1 antibodies and display a similar ontogenetic pattern of expression. cDNA clones were isolated by hybridization to a synthetic oligonucleotide corresponding to the EF-hand. One clone, LpS1, encodes an mRNA with developmental properties like those of the S. purpuratus Spec mRNAs. However, LpS1 contains an open reading frame for a protein of 34,000 Da rather than 17,000 Da, and antibodies raised against part of the LpS1 reading frame demonstrate that LpS1 encodes a 34,000-Da protein in L. pictus embryos. The sequence of LpS1 reveals the presence of eight EF-hand domains, which share structural homology with the Spec1 or Spec2 EF-hands; however, little else in the protein sequence is conserved. The results support the hypothesis that the LpS1 gene arose from a duplication of an ancestral Spec gene and that the overall structural features of the Spec family of proteins are more conserved than the amino acid sequences.
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