The tumor necrosis factor superfamily (TNFSF) and the TNF receptor superfamily (TNFRSF) have an ancient evolutionary origin that can be traced back to single copy genes within Arthropods. In humans, 18 TNFSF and 29 TNFRSF genes have been identified. Evolutionary models account for the increase in gene number primarily through multiple whole genome duplication events as well as by lineage and/or species-specific tandem duplication and translocation. The identification and functional analyses of teleost ligands and receptors provide insight into the critical transition between invertebrates and higher vertebrates. Bioinformatic analyses of fish genomes and EST datasets identify 14 distinct ligand groups, some of which are novel to teleosts, while to date, only limited numbers of receptors have been characterized in fish. The most studied ligand is TNF of which teleost species possess between 1 and 3 copies as well as a receptor similar to TNFR1. Functional studies using zebrafish indicate a conserved role of this ligand-receptor system in the regulation of cell survival and resistance to infectious disease. The increasing interest and use of TNFSF and TNFRSF modulators in human and animal medicine underscores the need to understand the evolutionary origins as well as conserved and novel functions of these biologically important molecules.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.