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Genomics. 1999 Dec 1;62(2):232-41.

Molecular cloning and characterization of a human cDNA and gene encoding a novel acid ceramidase-like protein.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York 10029, USA.


Computer-assisted database analysis of sequences homologous to human acid ceramidase (ASAH) revealed a 1233-bp cDNA (previously designated cPj-LTR) whose 266-amino-acid open reading frame had approximately 36% identity with the ASAH polypeptide. Based on this high degree of homology, we undertook further molecular characterization of cPj-LTR and now report the full-length cDNA sequence, complete gene structure (renamed human ASAHL since it is a human acid ceramidase-like sequence), chromosomal location, primer extension and promoter analysis, and transient expression results. The full-length human ASAHL cDNA was 1825 bp and contained an open-reading frame encoding a 359-amino-acid polypeptide that was 33% identical and 69% similar to the ASAH polypeptide over its entire length. Numerous short regions of complete identity were observed between these two sequences and two sequences obtained from the Caenorhabditis elegans genome database. The 30-kb human ASAHL genomic sequence contained 11 exons, which ranged in size from 26 to 671 bp, and 10 introns, which ranged from 150 bp to 6.4 kb. The gene was localized to the chromosomal region 4q21.1 by fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis. Northern blotting experiments revealed a major 2.0-kb ASAHL transcript that was expressed at high levels in the liver and kidney, but at relatively low levels in other tissues such as the lung, heart, and brain. Sequence analysis of the 5'-flanking region of the human ASAHL gene revealed a putative promoter region that lacked a TATA box and was GC rich, typical features of a housekeeping gene promoter, as well as several tissue-specific and/or hormone-induced transcription regulatory sites. 5'-Deletion analysis localized the promoter activity to a 1. 1-kb fragment within this region. A major transcription start site also was located 72 bp upstream from the ATG translation initiation site by primer extension analysis. Expression analysis of a green fluorescence protein/ASAHL fusion protein in COS-1 cells revealed a punctate, perinuclear distribution, although no acid ceramidase activity was detected in the transfected cells using a fluorescence-based in vitro assay system.

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