The rat prolactin gene family locus: species-specific gene family expansion

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Abstract

In the rat there is a large family of paralogous genes related to prolactin (PRL). Members of the PRL family are expressed in cell- and temporal-specific patterns in the anterior pituitary, uterus, and placenta. An overriding feature of the PRL family is its association with pregnancy. In this investigation, we used information derived from the public rat genome database as a tool for identifying new members of the rat PRL family. The entire rat PRL gene family locus spans approximately 1.7 megabases (Mb) on Chromosome 17. Genes possessed either 5- or 6-exon organization patterns. We provide information on three newly identified genes orthologous to previously identified members of the mouse PRL gene family [placental lactogen-Iα (PL-Iα), PL-Iβ, and proliferin (PLF)] and a new member of the PRL family, termed PRL-like protein-P (PLP-P). Information is also presented on the existence of multiple PLP-M transcripts, which are generated by alternative splicing. Expansion of the PRL family has occurred independently in rodents versus the cow and does not exist in the human and dog. Elucidation of the rat PRL gene family locus provides tools for studying the genetics and biology of the rat PRL family and new insights into species-specific gene family expansion.

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