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Published August 19, 2003 | Published
Journal Article Open

Atypical expansion in mice of the sensory neuron-specific Mrg G protein-coupled receptor family


The Mas-related genes (Mrgs) comprise a family of >50 G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), many of which are expressed in specific subsets of nociceptive sensory neurons in mice. In contrast, humans contain a related but nonorthologous family of genes, called MrgXs or sensory neuron-specific receptors, of which many fewer appear to be expressed in sensory neurons. To determine whether the diversity of murine Mrgs is generic to rodents or is an atypical feature of mice, we characterized MrgA, MrgB, MrgC, and MrgD subfamilies in rat and gerbil. Surprisingly, although mice have {approx}22 MrgA and {approx}14 MrgC genes, rats and gerbils have just a single MrgA and MrgC gene. This murine-specific expansion likely reflects recent retrotransposon-mediated unequal crossover events. The expression of Mrgs in rat sensory ganglia suggests that the extensive cellular diversity in mice can be simplified to a core subset of approximately four different genes (MrgA, MrgB, MrgC, and MrgD), defining a similar number of neuronal subpopulations. Our results suggest more generally that mouse–human genomic comparisons may sometimes reveal differences atypical of rodents.

Additional Information

© 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences Edited by Melvin I. Simon, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and approved July 1, 2003 (received for review May 15, 2003). This paper was submitted directly (Track II) to the PNAS office. Published online before print August 8, 2003, 10.1073/pnas.1732949100 We thank Gaby Mosconi for laboratory management; Jung-Sook Chang for technical assistance; Mel Simon, Sang-Kyou Han, and Jong-Ik Hwang for helpful discussions throughout the course of this work; and Mel Simon and Cori Bargmann for comments on the manuscript. M.J.Z. was supported by the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon–Walter Winchell Foundation Fellowship (DRG-1581). X.D. is a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society, and D.J.A. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Data deposition: The sequences described in this paper have been deposited in the GenBank database [accession nos. AF518238 [GenBank] –AF518249, AY266420 [GenBank] (rat Mrgs), and AY196926 [GenBank] –AY196928 (partial sequences for gerbil MrgB1, MrgB4, and MrgD)].

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