The MUC4 mucin gene encodes a putative membrane-anchored mucin with predicted size of 930 kDa, for its 26.5-kb allele. It is composed of two regions, the 850-kDa mucin-type subunit MUC4α and the 80-kDa membrane- associated subunit MUC4β. In this study, we cloned and characterized unique MUC4 cDNA sequences that differ from the originally published sequence. Eight alternative splice events located downstream of the central large tandem repeat array generated eight new, distinct cDNAs. The deduced sequences of these MUC4 cDNAs (sv1-MUC4 to sv8-MUC4, the full length cDNA being called sv0-MUC4) provided seven distinct variants, five secreted forms and two membrane-associated forms. Furthermore, two other alternative splicing events located on both sides of the tandem repeat array created two variants, MUC4/Y and MUC4/X, both lacking the central tandem repeat. Therefore, MUC4 can be expressed in three distinct forms, one membrane-bound, one secreted, and one lacking the hallmark feature of mucin, the tandem repeat array. Although no specific function has yet been discovered for the family of proteins putatively produced from the unique MUC4 gene, we suspect that the MUC4 proteins may be implicated in the integrity and renewal of the epithelium.
- Alternative splicing
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