Evolutionary diversification of MCM3 genes in Xenopus laevis and Danio rerio

Minori Shinya, Daiki Machiki, Thorsten Henrich, Yumiko Kubota, Haruhiko Takisawa, Satoru Mimura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Embryonic cell cycles of amphibians are rapid and lack zygotic transcription and checkpoint control. At the midblastula transition, zygotic transcription is initiated and cell divisions become asynchronous. Several cell cycle-related amphibian genes retain 2 distinct forms, maternal and zygotic, but little is known about the functional differences between these 2 forms of proteins. The minichromosome maintenance (MCM) 2-7 complex, consisting of 6 MCM proteins, plays a central role in the regulation of eukaryotic DNA replication. Almost all eukaryotes retain just a single MCM gene for each subunit. Here we report that Xenopus and zebrafish have 2 copies of MCM3 genes, one of which shows a maternal and the other a zygotic expression pattern. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the Xenopus and zebrafish zygotic MCM3 genes are more similar to their mammalian MCM3 ortholog, suggesting that maternal MCM3 was lost during evolution in most vertebrate lineages. Maternal MCM3 proteins in these 2 species are functionally different from zygotic MCM3 proteins because zygotic, but not maternal, MCM3 possesses an active nuclear localization signal in its C-terminal region, such as mammalian MCM3 orthologs do. mRNA injection experiments in zebrafish embryos show that overexpression of maternal MCM3 impairs proliferation and causes developmental defects, whereas zygotic MCM3 has a much weaker effect. This difference is brought about by the difference in their C-terminal regions, which contain putative nuclear localization signals; swapping the C-terminal region between maternal and zygotic genes diminishes the developmental defects. This study suggests that evolutionary diversification has occurred in MCM3 genes, leading to distinct functions, possibly as an adaption to the rapid DNA replication required for early development of Xenopus and zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3271-3281
Number of pages11
JournalCell Cycle
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Oct 15


  • Development
  • Gene evolution
  • MCM2-7
  • Replication
  • Xenopus
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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