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J Cell Biol. 1993 Nov 1; 123(3): 513–522.
PMCID: PMC2200129

The cell proliferation-associated antigen of antibody Ki-67: a very large, ubiquitous nuclear protein with numerous repeated elements, representing a new kind of cell cycle-maintaining proteins


The antigen defined by mAb Ki-67 is a human nuclear protein the expression of which is strictly associated with cell proliferation and which is widely used in routine pathology as a "proliferation marker" to measure the growth fraction of cells in human tumors. Ki-67 detects a double band with apparent molecular weights of 395 and 345 kD in immunoblots of proteins from proliferating cells. We cloned and sequenced the full length cDNA, identified two differentially spliced isoforms of mRNA with open reading frames of 9,768 and 8,688 bp encoding for this cell proliferation-associated protein with calculated molecular weights of 358,761 D and 319,508 D, respectively. New mAbs against a bacterially expressed part and a synthetic polypeptide deduced from the isolated cDNA react with the native Ki-67 antigen, thus providing a circle of evidence that we have cloned the authentic Ki-67 antigen cDNA. The central part of the Ki-67 antigen cDNA contains a large 6,845-bp exon with 16 tandemly repeated 366-bp elements, the "Ki-67 repeats", each including a highly conserved new motif of 66 bp, the "Ki-67 motif", which encodes for the epitope detected by Ki-67. Computer analysis of the nucleic acid and the deduced amino acid sequence of the Ki-67 antigen confirmed that the cDNA encodes for a nuclear and short-lived protein without any significant homology to known sequences. Ki-67 antigen-specific antisense oligonucleotides inhibit the proliferation of IM-9 cell line cells, indicating that the Ki-67 antigen may be an absolute requirement for maintaining cell proliferation. We conclude that the Ki-67 antigen defines a new category of cell cycle-associated nuclear nonhistone proteins.

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