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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Nov 20;98(24):14084-9.

Generation of the mu opioid receptor (MOR-1) protein by three new splice variants of the Oprm gene.

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Laboratory of Molecular Neuropharmacology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Using 5' RACE, we have isolated four additional exons of the mu opioid receptor gene (Oprm), resulting in a gene spanning over 250 kb. The four new exons are contained within eight additional splice variants containing exon 11 at the 5' terminus. Exon 11, which is under the control of a previously unknown upstream promoter, and exon 12 are located approximately 10 kb and approximately 8 kb upstream from exon 1, respectively. Exon 13 and 14 are located between exons 1 and 2. The regional distributions of the variants, as determined by reverse transcription-PCR, varied among themselves and were distinct from that of MOR-1, implying region-specific RNA processing. Three variants (MOR-1H, MOR-1I, and MOR-1J) contained two potential translational start points, with the translational start point in exon 1 producing proteins identical to the original MOR-1 protein. When expressed, the receptor binding of these three variants was indistinguishable from that of MOR-1. The remaining eight proteins using the translation start point in exon 11 were all truncated, with three (MOR-1G, MOR-1M, and MOR-1N) predicting proteins of only six transmembrane domains and the rest giving proteins under 10 kDa. Western blots with an exon 11-specific antiserum revealed bands consistent with the six transmembrane domain proteins within the brain, but the shorter proteins were not detected. Thus, the MOR-1 protein can be generated by four different splice variants of the Oprm gene under the control of two physically distinct promoters. Although the truncated proteins are expressed in brain with a unique regional distribution, their functional significance remains unknown.

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