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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 25;276(21):18265-71. Epub 2001 Jan 16.

Cloning and biological activity of epigen, a novel member of the epidermal growth factor superfamily.

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  • 1Genesis Research and Development Corporation Limited, Auckland 1015, New Zealand.


High throughput sequencing of a mouse keratinocyte library was used to identify an expressed sequence tag with homology to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family of growth factors. We have named the protein encoded by this expressed sequence tag Epigen, for epithelial mitogen. Epigen encodes a protein of 152 amino acids that contains features characteristic of the EGF superfamily. Two hydrophobic regions, corresponding to a putative signal sequence and transmembrane domain, flank a core of amino acids encompassing six cysteine residues and two putative N-linked glycosylation sites. Epigen shows 24-37% identity to members of the EGF superfamily including EGF, transforming growth factor alpha, and Epiregulin. Northern blotting of several adult mouse tissues indicated that Epigen was present in testis, heart, and liver. Recombinant Epigen was synthesized in Escherichia coli and refolded, and its biological activity was compared with that of EGF and transforming growth factor alpha in several assays. In epithelial cells, Epigen stimulated the phosphorylation of c-erbB-1 and mitogen-activated protein kinases and also activated a reporter gene containing enhancer sequences present in the c-fos promoter. Epigen also stimulated the proliferation of HaCaT cells, and this proliferation was blocked by an antibody to the extracellular domain of the receptor tyrosine kinase c-erbB-1. Thus, Epigen is the newest member of the EGF superfamily and, with its ability to promote the growth of epithelial cells, may constitute a novel molecular target for wound-healing therapy.

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