Kerr, T., Roalson, E.H., and Rodgers, B.D. (2005) Phylogenetic analysis of the myostatin gene sub-family and the differential expression of a novel member in zebrafish. Evolution & development. 7(5):390-400.
The myostatin (MSTN)-null phenotype in mammals is characterized by extreme gains in skeletal muscle mass or "double muscling" as the cytokine negatively regulates skeletal muscle growth. Recent attempts, however, to reproduce a comparable phenotype in zebrafish have failed. Several aspects of MSTN biology in the fishes differ significantly from those in mammals and at least two distinct paralogs have been identified in some species, which possibly suggests functional divergence between the different vertebrate classes or between fish paralogs. We therefore conducted a phylogenetic analysis of the entire MSTN gene sub-family. Maximum likelihood, Bayesian inference, and bootstrap analyses indicated a monophyletic distribution of all MSTN genes with two distinct fish clades: MSTN-1 and -2. These analyses further indicated that all Salmonid genes described are actually MSTN-1 orthologs and that additional MSTN-2 paralogs may be present in most, if not all, teleosts. An additional zebrafish homolog was identified by BLAST searches of the zebrafish Hierarchical Tets Generation System database and was subsequently cloned. Comparative sequence analysis of both genes (zebrafish MSTN (zfMSTN)-1 and -2) revealed many differences, primarily within the latency-associated peptide regions, but also within the bioactive domains. The 2-kb promoter region of zfMSTN-2 contained many putative cis regulatory elements that are active during myogenesis, but are lacking in the zfMSTN-1 promoter. In fact, zfMSTN-2 expression was limited to the early stages of somitogenesis, whereas zfMSTN-1 was expressed throughout embryogenesis. These data suggest that zfMSTN-2 may be more closely associated with skeletal muscle growth and development. They also resolve the previous ambiguity in classification of fish MSTN genes.