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J Biol Chem. 1991 May 5;266(13):8273-80.

Tissue- and development-specific alternative RNA splicing regulates expression of multiple isoforms of erythroid membrane protein 4.1.

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  • 1Cell and Molecular Biology Division, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Protein 4.1, a multifunctional structural protein originally described as an 80-kDa component of the erythroid membrane skeleton, exhibits tissue- and development-specific heterogeneity in molecular weight, subcellular localization, and primary amino acid sequence. Earlier reports suggested that some of this impressive heterogeneity is generated by alternative RNA splicing (Conboy, J. G., Chan, J., Mohandas, N., and Kan, Y. W. (1988) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 85, 9062-9065; Tang, T. K., Leto, T., Marchesi, V. T., and Benz, E. J. (1990) J. Cell Biol. 110, 617-624). We have now completed a systematic analysis of 4.1 mRNA isoforms expressed in erythroid cells, and have generated an "alternative splicing map" which summarizes diagrammatically a multitude of polypeptide isoforms potentially generated by combinatorial splicing of nine alternative exons. Complex 5' splicing events yield mRNA isoforms that may initiate translation at different sites and thus generate elongated or truncated NH2 termini; elongated approximately 135-kDa and prototypical approximately 80-kDa species were detected in both erythrocytes and T-lymphocytes, but in very different ratios. Among the functional domains of 4.1 responsible for interaction with other membrane skeletal elements, four variants of the 10-kDa spectrin-actin-binding region and four variants of the putative 30-kDa glycophorin-binding region are predicted. Developmentally controlled alternative RNA splicing in the spectrin-actin-binding region may help regulate remodeling of membrane architecture and mechanical properties that occur during erythropoiesis.

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