Journal of experimental zoology vol:285 issue:4 pages:378-386
Cnidaria are the most basal animal phylum in which smooth and striated muscle cells have evolved. Since the ultrastructure of the mononucleated striated muscle is similar to that of higher animals, it is of interest to compare the striated muscle of Cnidaria at the molecular level to that of triploblastic phyla. We have used tropomyosins, a family of actin binding proteins to address this question. Throughout the animal kingdom, a great diversity of tropomyosin isoforms is found in non-muscle cells but only a few conserved tropomyosins are expressed in muscle cells. Muscle tropomyosins are all similar in length and share conserved termini. Two cnidarian tropomyosins have been described previously but neither of them is expressed in striated muscle cells. Here, we have characterized a new tropomyosin gene Tpm2 from the hydrozoan Podocoryne caraea. Expression analysis by RT-PCR and by whole mount in situ hybridization demonstrate that Tpm2 is exclusively expressed in striated muscle cells of the medusa. The Tpm2 protein is shorter in length than its counterparts from higher animals and differs at both amino and carboxy termini from striated muscle isoforms of higher animals. Interestingly, Tpm2 differs considerably from Tpm1 (only 19% identity) which was described previously in Podocoryne carnea. This divergence indicates a functional separation of cytoskeletal and striated muscle tropomyosins in cnidarians. These data contribute to our understanding of the evolution of the tropomyosin gene family and demonstrate the recruitment of tropomyosin into hydrozoan striated muscles during metazoan evolution. (C) 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.