On the origins of the extracellular matrix in vertebrates

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    Extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key metazoan characteristic. In addition to providing structure and orientation to tissues, it is involved in many cellular processes such as adhesion, migration, proliferation and differentiation. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis of ECM molecules focussing on when vertebrate specific matrices evolved. We identify 60 ECM genes and 20 associated processing enzymes in the genome of the urochordate Ciona intestinalis. A comparison with vertebrate and protostome genomes has permitted the identification of both a core set of metazoan matrix genes and vertebrate-specific innovations in the ECM. We have identified a few potential cases of de novo vertebrate ECM gene innovation, but the majority of ECM genes have resulted from duplication of pre-existing genes present in the ancestral vertebrate. In conclusion, the modern complexity we see in vertebrate ECM has come about largely by duplication and modification of pre-existing matrix molecules. Extracellular matrix genes and their processing enzymes appear to be over-represented in the vertebrate genome suggesting that these genes played an active role enabling and underpinning the evolution of vertebrates.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2-11
    Number of pages9
    JournalMatrix Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


    • Evolution
    • Extracellular matrix
    • Genome
    • Urochordate
    • Vertebrate


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