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The olig family: phylogenetic analysis and early gene expression in Xenopus tropicalis

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The olig genes form a small subfamily of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors. They were discovered in 2000 as genes required for oligodendrocyte lineage specification. Since then, olig genes have been identified in various vertebrate species and corresponding sequences accumulated within genomic databases. Until now, three groups of olig genes have been characterized. Our phylogenetic analysis demonstrates the existence of a fourth group, which we named olig4. Genes of the four olig groups are present in actinopterygians and amphibians, whereas mammals only possess olig1, 2, and 3. We also found one olig gene in hemichordates, urochordates, and cephalochordates. Our expression study during Xenopus tropicalis embryogenesis shows that the four olig genes have very distinct expression patterns. Olig1 is very faintly expressed before the tadpole stage, whereas olig2, 3, and 4 are expressed from the gastrula stage onward. The olig3 expression during neurulation suggests a role in early anteroposterior patterning of the brain. All these results indicate that olig genes are involved in several developmental processes during early development.

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We would like to thank Chantal Ballagny, Albert Chesneau, Laure-Hélène Jestin, Christophe De Medeiros, and Claudia Bevilacqua for their technical assistance and contributions to the work.

We are grateful to Muriel Perron and Morgane Locker for valuable discussions and critical reading of the manuscript and to James Richardson for correcting the English.

This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the Université Paris-Sud XI, the Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de la Recherche et de la Technologie, the European Community FP6 (X-omics coordinated action no. 512065).

Author information

Correspondence to M. Wegnez.

Additional information

O. J. Bronchain and N. Pollet contributed equally to this work.

Communicated by T. Hollemann

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the image is a link to a high resolution version.

Supplementary Fig. 1

Multiple alignment of the OLIG bHLH domain. A multiple alignment of the bHLH domain present in all OLIG proteins is shown. This local multiple alignment was computed using hmmalign and the superfamily helix-loop-helix domain accession number 0031492. It was visualized using jalview and the clustalx colour code. Species abbreviations are AMPHI: Branchiostoma floridae; BOVIN: Bos taurus; DANIO: Danio rerio; CANFA: Canis familiaris; CHICK: Gallus gallus; DASYPUS: Dasypus novemcinctus; FUGU: Takifugu rubripes; HUMAN: Homo sapiens; MEDAKA: Oryzias latypes; MMU: Macacca mulatta; MOUSE: Mus musculus; OIKOP: Oikopleura dioica; OPOSSUM: Monodelphis domestica; RABBIT: Oryctolagus cuniculus; RATNO: Rattus norvegicus; SACCOK: Saccoglossus kowalevskii; STICKLEBACK: Gasterosteus aculeatus; TENREC: Echinops telfairi; TETNI: Tetraodon nigroviridis; XENLA: Xenopus laevis; XENTR: Xenopus tropicalis. Designation of basic (b), helix (h), loop(l) and helix(h) follows the structural annotation of myf5 (GIF 212 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

Phylogenies of olig subfamilies. In these rooted trees, the entire protein sequences were used to compute a multiple alignment using MUSCLE. Trees were built using maximum likelihood implemented in the jalview TREE-PUZZLE implementation. BHLHB4 was used as outgroup. Numbers above the branches indicate percent support for the nodes in distance bootstrap analysis (100 replicates). Branch lengths are proportional to the number of substitutions per site with the scale indicated at panel bottom. Species abbreviations are AMPHI: Branchiostoma floridae; BOVIN: Bos taurus; DANIO: Danio rerio; CANFA: Canis familiaris; CHICK: Gallus gallus; DASYPUS: Dasypus novemcinctus; ELEPHANT: Loxodonta africana; FUGU: Takifugu rubripes; HUMAN: Homo sapiens; MEDAKA: Oryzias latypes; MMU: Macacca mulatta; MOUSE: Mus musculus; OPOSSUM: Monodelphis domestica; PANTR: Pan troglodytes; PIG: Sus scrofa; RABBIT: Oryctolagus cuniculus; RATNO: Rattus norvegicus; STICKLEBACK: Gasterosteus aculeatus; TENREC: Echinops telfairi; TETNI: Tetraodon nigroviridis; XENLA: Xenopus laevis; XENTR: Xenopus tropicalis (GIF 87 kb)

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Bronchain, O.J., Pollet, N., Ymlahi-Ouazzani, Q. et al. The olig family: phylogenetic analysis and early gene expression in Xenopus tropicalis . Dev Genes Evol 217, 485–497 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00427-007-0158-z

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  • Olig
  • bHLH
  • Xenopus
  • Oligodendrocytes
  • Phylogeny