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J Immunol. 1989 Aug 15;143(4):1358-65.

The structure of the rabbit macrophage defensin genes and their organ-specific expression.

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  • 1Will Rogers Institute of Pulmonary Research, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1736.


Defensins are a family of microbicidal and cytotoxic peptides abundant in the lysosomal granules of mammalian phagocytes. We present the cDNA and genomic sequences of two rabbit defensins, macrophage cationic peptides MCP-1 and MCP-2. Their cDNA and genomic sequences are highly homologous, reflecting the homology between the two defensins (32 of 33 amino acids). The MCP genes are closely linked (within 13 kb) suggesting that they evolved by a recent tandem gene duplication. Their cDNA sequences indicate that the peptides are synthesized as 95 amino acid prepro-MCPs, consistent with their lysosomal location. The MCP genes are separated into three exons encoding distinct domains: the 5' untranslated region, the prepropeptide domain, and the mature defensin sequence. Fully developed polymorphonuclear leukocytes, short-lived phagocytes with limited capacity for protein and nucleic acid synthesis, contained MCPs but lacked MCP mRNA. MCP mRNA was found in bone marrow and spleen, organs which contained immature polymorphonuclear leukocytes. MCP and MCP mRNA were detected in lung macrophages, but not in macrophages from other organs, nor in monocytes, the putative macrophage precursors. In macrophages, the expression of MCPs appears to be a marker of lung-specific differentiation.

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