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Biol Reprod. 1991 Aug;45(2):350-7.

A major human epididymis-specific cDNA encodes a protein with sequence homology to extracellular proteinase inhibitors.

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  • 1Institute for Hormone and Fertility Research, Hamburg, Germany.


The amino acid sequence of a major human epididymis-specific protein was deduced from the nucleotide sequence of its cloned cDNA. The encoded product showed characteristics of a secretory protein, with a signal peptide followed by a small (approximately 10-kDa), acidic (pI 4.3), and cysteine-rich polypeptide. The positions of half-cysteines suggested that it was a two-domain member of the family of 'four-disulfide core' proteins to which a number of proteinase inhibitors belong. Southern blot analyses of human genomic DNA showed that the transcripts originated from a single copy gene. Northern blot and in situ transcript hybridization specifically localized the HE4 (human epididymis gene product) mRNA to the epithelial cells of the epididymal duct, predominantly within the distal sections. A possible function in sperm maturation as indicated by amino acid similarities to extracellular proteinase inhibitors of genital tract mucous secretions is discussed in the context of its tissue-specific transcription.

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