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J Biol Chem. 1993 Feb 5;268(4):2781-92.

Human plastin genes. Comparative gene structure, chromosome location, and differential expression in normal and neoplastic cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cancer Cell Biology, Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, California 94301.


Plastins are a family of actin-binding proteins that are conserved throughout eukaryote evolution and expressed in most tissues of higher eukaryotes. In humans, two ubiquitous plastin isoforms (L and T) have been identified. The L isoform is expressed only in hemopoietic cell lineages, while the T isoform has been found in all other normal cells of solid tissues that have replicative potential (fibroblasts, endothelial cells, epithelial cells, melanocytes, etc.). However, L-plastin has been found in many types of malignant human cells of non-hemopoietic origin suggesting that its expression is induced accompanying tumorigenesis in solid tissues. To learn more about the nature of plastin genes and their potential role in malignancy, the L- and T- plastin genes were cloned and sequenced to characterize their structure and mechanisms of regulation of expression. Each gene was found to be approximately 90 kilobases in size and was composed of 16 exons. All exon-intron junction sequences were identified and shown to conform to the canonical junction sequences. It was evident from their similar structure and coding homology that the two plastin genes have diverged from a common ancestor gene. L- and T-plastin genes were also mapped to chromosomes 13 and X, respectively, using polymerase chain reaction amplification with isoform-specific probes. An expanded survey of normal cell types and 50 tumor cell lines, demonstrated that 68% of carcinomas and 53% of other solid tumors of nonepithelial origin exhibited L-plastin expression, whereas the normal stem cell progenitors did not. Fibrosarcomas (n = 4), ovarian carcinomas (n = 9), breast carcinomas (n = 4), and choriocarcinomas (n = 2) combined exhibited the highest frequency and levels of L-plastin expression (95% frequency). In addition, 4 tumor cell lines that were L-plastin-negative exhibited evidence of defective T-plastin expression increasing the apparent co-incidence of plastin abnormalities associated with human tumorigenesis to 71%. Evidence is presented in support of a trans-activation mechanism for activation of L-plastin synthesis accompanying tumorigenesis. The induction of L-plastin expression accompanying SV40-mediated transformation of human embryonic lung MRC-5 fibroblasts was also confirmed. Finally, we present evidence that fimbrin is a third distinct plastin isoform which is specifically expressed at high levels in the small intestine.

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