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Nat Genet. 2005 Feb;37(2):171-6. Epub 2005 Jan 9.

Monoallelic yet combinatorial expression of variable exons of the protocadherin-alpha gene cluster in single neurons.

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  • 1KOKORO-biology group, Laboratories for Integrated Biology, Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka University 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


Diverse protocadherin-alpha genes (Pcdha, also called cadherin-related neuronal receptor or CNR) are expressed in the vertebrate brain. Their genomic organization involves multiple variable exons and a set of constant exons, similar to the immunoglobulin (Ig) and T-cell receptor (TCR) genes. This diversity can be used to distinguish neurons. Using polymorphisms that distinguish the C57BL/6 and MSM mouse strains, we analyzed the allelic expression of the Pcdha gene cluster in individual neurons. Single-cell analysis of Purkinje cells using multiple RT-PCR reactions showed the monoallelic and combinatorial expression of each variable exon in the Pcdha genes. This report is the first description to our knowledge of the allelic expression of a diversified receptor family in the central nervous system. The allelic and combinatorial expression of distinct variable exons of the Pcdha genes is a potential mechanism for specifying neuron identity in the brain.

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