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J Invest Dermatol. 1996 Oct;107(4):633-8.

Genomic characterization of the human type I cuticular hair keratin hHa2 and identification of an adjacent novel type I hair keratin gene hHa5.

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  • 1Research Program, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


Hair keratins, a subset of the keratin multigene family expressed in hard keratinizing structures, previously have been thought to comprise four members of each subfamily, designated Ha1-4 (type I) and Hb1-4 (type II), which are differentially expressed in the cuticle and cortex of the hair follicle. This report describes the genomic cloning and sequencing of the human type I cuticular hair keratin hHa2, as well as the identification of a previously unknown human type I hair keratin gene. The 12.5-kilobase pair genomic clone ghkI2.12, obtained by hybridization of a human genomic deoxyribonucleic acid library with a 3'-complementary deoxyribonucleic acid probe of hHa2, as well as the partially overlapping 14.4-kilobase pair genomic clone ghkI2.17, isolated using a 5'-fragment of clone ghkI2.12, allowed the characterization of the entire hHa2 gene. The gene displays the same exon/intron structure as two previously characterized type I mouse and sheep hair/wool keratin genes with strict positional conservation of the six introns in the region coding for the central alpha-helix. At the 5'-extremity of clone ghkI2.17, i.e., approximately 8.0 kilobase pairs upstream of the hHa2 gene and oriented in the same transcriptional direction, lies the gene for a hitherto unknown human type I hair keratin. Clone ghkI2.17 contains partial sequence information for this gene beginning with intron 5 and extending to the end of the gene. Screening of a human scalp complementary deoxyribonucleic acid library with a 3'-fragment of the gene yielded a full length complementary deoxyribonucleic acid clone of the new hair keratin, which in continuation of the current nomenclature for hair keratins was termed hHa5. Remarkably, the hHa5 gene, which contains an additional 7th intron in its 3'-noncoding region, is expressed mainly in supramatricial cells and lowermost cortical cells of the hair bulb and thus constitutes a very early component of hair morphogenesis. Our results confirm the type specific clustering of keratin genes and indicate that the human type I hair keratin subfamily contains more members than previously assumed.

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