Comparative analysis of Neph gene expression in mouse and chicken development

Histochem Cell Biol. 2012 Mar;137(3):355-66. doi: 10.1007/s00418-011-0903-2. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


Neph proteins are evolutionarily conserved members of the immunoglobulin superfamily of adhesion proteins and regulate morphogenesis and patterning of different tissues. They share a common protein structure consisting of extracellular immunoglobulin-like domains, a transmembrane region, and a carboxyl terminal cytoplasmic tail required for signaling. Neph orthologs have been widely characterized in invertebrates where they mediate such diverse processes as neural development, synaptogenesis, or myoblast fusion. Vertebrate Neph proteins have been described first at the glomerular filtration barrier of the kidney. Recently, there has been accumulating evidence suggesting a function of Neph proteins also outside the kidney. Here we demonstrate that Neph1, Neph2, and Neph3 are expressed differentially in various tissues during ontogenesis in mouse and chicken. Neph1 and Neph2 were found to be amply expressed in the central nervous system while Neph3 expression remained localized to the cerebellum anlage and the spinal cord. Outside the nervous system, Neph mRNAs were also differentially expressed in branchial arches, somites, heart, lung bud, and apical ectodermal ridge. Our findings support the concept that vertebrate Neph proteins, similarly to their Drosophila and C. elegans orthologs, provide guidance cues for cell recognition and tissue patterning in various organs which may open interesting perspectives for future research on Neph1-3 controlled morphogenesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Branchial Region / embryology
  • Branchial Region / physiology
  • Cerebellum / embryology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens
  • Ectoderm / embryology
  • Ectoderm / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Heart / embryology
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / genetics*
  • Lung / embryology
  • Lung / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Phylogeny
  • Pregnancy
  • Somites / embryology
  • Somites / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Kirrel1 protein, mouse
  • Kirrel3 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neph3 protein, mouse