Gene clustering of the small leucine -rich repeat gene family

Stephen Philip Henry, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The small leucine-rich repeat proteoglycans (or SLRPs) are a group of extracellular proteins (ECM) that belong to the leucine-rich repeat (LRR) superfamily of proteins. The LRR is a protein folding motif composed of 20–30 amino acids with leucines in conserved positions. LRR-containing proteins are present in a broad spectrum of organisms and possess diverse cellular functions and localization. In mammals, the SLRPs are abundant in connective tissues, such as bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and blood vessels. We have discovered a new member of the class I small leucine rich repeat proteoglycan (SLRP) family which is distinct from the other class I SLRPs since it possesses a unique stretch of aspartate residues at its N-terminus. For this reason, we called the molecule asporin. The deduced amino acid sequence is about 50% identical (and 70% similar) to decorin and biglycan. However, asporin does not contain a serine/glycine dipeptide sequence required for the assembly of O-linked glycosaminoglycans and is probably not a proteoglycan. The tissue expression of asporin partially overlaps with the expression of decorin and biglycan. During mouse embryonic development, asporin mRNA expression was detected primarily in the skeleton and other specialized connective tissues; very little asporin message was detected in the major parenchymal organs. The mouse asporin gene structure is similar to that of biglycan and decorin with 8 exons. The asporin gene is localized to human chromosome 9q22-9g21.3 where asporin is part of a SLRP gene cluster that includes ECM2, osteoadherin, and osteoglycin. This gene cluster of four LRR-encoding genes is embedded in a 238 kilobase intron of another novel gene named Tes9orf that is expressed primarily in the testes of the adult mouse. The SLRP genes are not present in Drosophila or C. elegans , but reside in three separate gene clusters in the puffer fish, mice and humans. Targeted disruption of individual mouse SLRP genes display minor connective tissue defects such as skin fragility, tendon laxity, minor growth plate defects, and mild osteoporosis. However, double and triple knockouts of SLRP genes exacerbate these phenotypes. Both the double epiphycan/biglycan and the triple PRELP/fibromodulin/biglycan knockout mice exhibit premature osteoarthritis.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Henry, Stephen Philip, "Gene clustering of the small leucine -rich repeat gene family" (2003). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3083494.