A Comparative Structural Characterization of the Human NSCL-1 and NSCL-2 Genes

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Human cDNA clones for NSCL-1 and NSCL-2, two basic domain helix-loop-helix (bHLH) genes expressed predominantly in the developing nervous system, were obtained from a fetal brain cDNA library. The full- length transcripts and the genomic structures were determined. The cDNAs for the two genes encode predicted proteins of similar size (133 and 135 amino acids for NSCL- 1 and NSCL-2, respectively) and structure. The carboxyl-terminal 75 amino acids of the two proteins contain the bHLH motif and differ from each other by only three conservative amino acid changes, while the amino-terminal portions are markedly divergent from each other. In addition to the similar protein structure, the genes have a similar genomic organization, suggesting a close evolutionary relationship. The5’-regulatory regions of the two genes share some features(ie. potential TATA, CCAAT, and GATA binding sites) but also differ significantly in their G+C content. NSCL-1 is relatively G+C-rich (63%)in the sequences upstream of transcription initiation and has multiple potential binding sites for transcription factors that bind to G+C-rich sequences (e.g. AP-2). NSCL-2 is relatively A+T-rich (63%) in this region and has a potential binding site for AP1. Studies of expression in normal tissues demonstrated expression of NSCL-1 and NSCL-2 in the developing central and peripheral nervous system, most likely in developing neurons. Additional Northern analysis studies in cell lines revealed expression of these genes in some cell lines derived from tumors with neural or neuroendocrine features such as neuroblastoma, PNET, and small cell lung cancer. NSCL-1 is expressed in a larger number of these cell lines. The differences in expression may parallel differences in develop-mental regulation.