Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling controls diverse cellular processes during embryogenesis as well as in mature tissues of multicellular animals. Here we carried out a comprehensive analysis of TGF-β pathway members in 24 representative animal species. The appearance of the TGF-β pathway was intrinsically linked to the emergence of metazoan. The total number of TGF-β ligands, receptors, and smads changed slightly in all invertebrates and jawless vertebrates analyzed. In contrast, expansion of the pathway members, especially ligands, was observed in jawed vertebrates most likely due to the second round of whole genome duplication (2R) and additional rounds in teleosts. Duplications of TGFB2
, which were resulted from 2R, were first isolated. Type II receptors may be originated from the ACVR2
-like ancestor. Interestingly, AMHR2
was not identified in Chimaeriformes and Cypriniformes even though they had the ligand AMH
. Based on transcriptome data, TGF-β ligands exhibited a tissue-specific expression especially in the heart and gonads. However, most receptors and smads were expressed in multiple tissues indicating they were shared by different ligands. Spatial and temporal expression profiles of 8 genes in gonads of different developmental stages provided a fundamental clue for understanding their important roles in sex determination and reproduction. Taken together, our findings provided a global insight into the phylogeny and expression patterns of the TGF-β pathway genes, and hence contribute to the greater understanding of their biological roles in the organism especially in teleosts.
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