MAM domain containing glycosilphosphatidilinositol anchor 1 (MDGA1) is an IgCAM protein present in many vertebrate species including humans. In mammals, MDGA1 is expressed by a subset of neurons in the developing brain and thought to function in neural cell migration. We identified a fish ortholog of mdga1 by a gene-trap screen utilizing the Frog Prince transposon in medaka (Japanese killifish, Oryzias latipes). The gene-trap vector was inserted into an intronic region of mdga1 to form a chimeric protein with green fluorescent protein, allowing us to monitor mdga1 expression in vivo. Expression of medaka mdga1 was seen in various types of embryonic brain neurons, and specifically in neurons migrating toward their target sites, supporting the proposed function of MDGA1. We also isolated the closely related mdga2 gene, whose expression partially overlapped with that of mdga1. Despite the fact that the gene-trap event eliminated most of the functional domains of the Mdga1 protein, homozygous embryos developed normally without any morphological abnormality, suggesting a functional redundancy of Mdga1 with other related proteins. High sequential homology of MDGA proteins between medaka and other vertebrate species suggests an essential role of the MDGA gene family in brain development among the vertebrate phylum.
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