The emergence of jawed vertebrates was predicated on the appearance of several innovations, including tooth formation. The development of teeth requires the participation of several specialized genes, in particular, those necessary for the formation of hard tissues dentin, enamel, and cementum. Some vertebrates, most conspicuously birds, secondarily lost the tooth- forming ability. To determine the fate of some of the tooth-forming genes in the birds, we tested a domestic fowl cDNA library for the expression of the dentin matrix protein 1 (DMP1) gene. The library was prepared from the poly(A +>) RNA isolated from the jaws of 11- to 13-day-old embryos and the testing was carried out by the polymerase chain reaction with degenerate primers designed on the basis of the available mammalian and reptile sequences. A chicken homologue of the DMP1 gene identified by this-approach was shown to be expressed in the jaws and long bones, the same two tissues as in mammals. The chicken DMP1 gene has an exon/intron organization similar to that of its mammalian and reptile counterparts. The chicken gene contains three short highly conserved segments, the rest of the gene being poorly alignable or not alignable with its mammalian or reptilian homologues. The distribution of similarities and dissimilarities along the gene is indicative of a mode of evolution in which only short segments are kept constant, while the rest of the gene is relatively free to vary as long as the proportion of certain amino acid residues is retained in the encoded polypeptide. The DMP1 gene may have been retained in birds because of its involvement in bone formation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology