Identification of a non-mammalian leptin-like gene: characterization and expression in the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Timothy Boswell, Ian C Dunn, Peter W Wilson, Nerine Joseph, David W Burt, Peter J Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leptin is well established as a multifunctional cytokine in mammals. However, little is known about the evolution of the leptin gene in other vertebrates. A recently published set of ESTs from the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) contains a sequence sharing 56% nucleotide sequence identity with the human leptin cDNA. To confirm that the EST is naturally expressed in the salamander, a 409bp cDNA was amplified by RT-PCR of salamander testis and stomach mRNAs. The coding sequence of the cDNA is predicted to encode 169 amino acids, and the mature peptide to consist of 146 residues, as in mammals. Although the overall amino acid identity with mammalian leptins is only 29%, the salamander and mammalian peptides share common structural features. An intron was identified between coding exons providing evidence that the sequence is present in the salamander genome. Phylogenetic analysis showed a rate of molecular divergence consistent with the accepted view of vertebrate evolution. The pattern of tissue expression of the leptin-like cDNA differed between metamorphosed adult individuals of different sizes suggesting possible developmental regulation. Expression was most prominent in the skin and testis, but was also detected in tissues in which leptin mRNA is present in mammals, including the fat body, stomach, and muscle. The characterization of a salamander leptin-like gene provides a basis for understanding how the structure and functions of leptin have altered during the evolution of tetrapod vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-66
Number of pages10
JournalGeneral And Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • Ambystoma/genetics
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Leptin/biosynthesis
  • Leptin/genetics
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stomach
  • Testis


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