BMC Evolutionary Biology
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The gene for odontogenic ameloblast-associated (ODAM) is a member of the secretory calcium-binding phosphoprotein gene family. ODAM is primarily expressed in dental tissues including the enamel organ and the junctional epithelium, and may also have pleiotropic functions that are unrelated to teeth. Here, we leverage the power of natural selection to test competing hypotheses that ODAM is tooth-specific versus pleiotropic. Specifically, we compiled and screened complete protein-coding sequences, plus sequences for flanking intronic regions, for ODAM in 165 placental mammals to determine if this gene contains inactivating mutations in lineages that either lack teeth (baleen whales, pangolins, anteaters) or lack enamel on their teeth (aardvarks, sloths, armadillos), as would be expected if the only essential functions of ODAM are related to tooth development and the adhesion of the gingival junctional epithelium to the enamel tooth surface.
Springer, M. S., Emerling, C. A., Gatesy, J., Randall, J., Collin, M. A., Hecker, N., ... & Delsuc, F. (2019). Odontogenic ameloblast-associated (ODAM) is inactivated in toothless/enamelless placental mammals and toothed whales. BMC evolutionary biology, 19(1), 1-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12862-019-1359-6