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Hum Mol Genet. 1999 Feb;8(2):259-66.

Localization of the APECED protein in distinct nuclear structures.

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Department of Human Molecular Genetics, National Public Health Institute and Department of Medical Genetics, University of Helsinki, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland.


Autoimmune-polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ecto-dermaldystrophy (APECED) is the only systemic autoimmune disease with a monogenic background known so far revealing no association with the major histocompatibility complex region. We have recently isolated the gene defective in this syndrome and characterized several different mutations in individuals with the disorder. The novel gene, AIRE, contains a putative bipartite nuclear targeting signal predicting a nuclear location of the corresponding protein. The presence of two PHD-type zinc finger domains as well as the newly described putative DNA-binding domain, SAND, in the amino acid sequence of the APECED protein implies that it may be involved in the regulation of gene expression. Using transient expression of AIRE cDNA in mammalian cells we demonstrate here the nuclear location of the APECED protein. Immunohistochemical staining of transfected cells revealed that most of the recombinant 58 kDa APECED protein is present in the form of nuclear dots. By double immuno-fluorescence labelling we further show that these APECED-containing structures and the previously described PML nuclear bodies are largely non-overlapping. The AIRE protein was also visualized in multiple human tissues: a subset of the cells in thymus, in spleen and in lymph node showed nuclear staining with APECED antiserum. Immunofluorescence labelling of peripheral blood mononuclear leukocytes also revealed a nuclear body-like staining pattern in a fraction of these cells. These data from both in vitro and ex vivo systems, together with the predicted structural features of the APECED protein, suggest that this protein is most probably involved in the regulation of gene expression.

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