Three-exon structure of the gene encoding the rat prion protein and its expression in tissues

Research paper by Keiichi Saeki, Yasunobu Matsumoto, Yoshikazu Hirota, Yoshitsugu Matsumoto, Takashi Onodera

Indexed on: 01 Jan '96Published on: 01 Jan '96Published in: Virus Genes


The prion protein (PrP), encoded by a chromosomal gene, is associated with development of the neurodegeneration of prion-induced diseases. Since determination of the complete structure of the gene encoding PrP is important for understanding gene expression in the central nervous system (CNS), the nucleotide (nt) sequence of the isolated whole gene encoding rat PrP (raPrP) was determined. The rat PrP gene (raPrP) spans 16 kilobases (kb) of the rat genome and contains three exons of 19–47 base pairs (bp), 98 bp, and 2 kb separated by two introns of 2.2 kb and 11 kb. The first and second exons are noncoding, while the third exon contains a short 5′ untranslated region, the entire 762-bp open reading frame (ORF), and a 3′ untranslated region. The putative raPrP promoter in the 5′ flanking region contains putative Sp1, AP-1, and AP-2 binding sites without a consensus TATA box. This TATA box-deficient feature, coupled with the presence of a high G+C content and Sp1-binding sites in the raPrP promoter, characterizes it as a housekeeping gene. Analysis of the raPrP cDNA 5′-end showed that raPrP mRNA transcription was initiated at multiple sites. Northern blot analysis showed that the levels of raPrP mRNA varied among rat tissues, with the highest levels found in the brain and placenta. This determination of raPrP nt sequences, including the introns and the 5′ and 3′ flanking regions, may make it possible to elucidate cis-acting elements that regulate the expression of this gene in different tissues and cell lines.