Evolutionary comparisons frequently pinpoint crucial parts of a protein but, even within coding regions, nucleotides can do more than determine amino acid sequence. One highly conserved feature of the Wilms' tumour suppressor gene, WT1, is the potential, following alternative pre-mRNA splicing, to insert three amino acids (KTS) between the third and fourth zinc fingers. The nucleotides at this position simultaneously define amino acids and the alternative splice site. At the protein level this insertion influences DNA binding affinity and specificity, protein-protein interactions and subnuclear localization. Mutations within the +/-KTS splice junction lead to severe urogenital developmental abnormalities such as Frasier syndrome, indicating that the isoform ratio is critical for wild-type function. Using a series of site-directed mutations in both the genomic and cDNA context, the nucleotide-amino acid relationship was investigated. Mutational analysis within the cDNA suggests that the precise amino acids inserted may not be critical, but rather the disruption of the zinc finger structure alone may be sufficient to generate proteins with different in vitro properties. However, analysis within the genomic context suggests that the precise structure of the splice junction is crucial in retaining the balance between the isoforms, and this may account for the high nucleo-tide conservation of this unusual gene structure from fish to mammals.
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||Human Molecular Genetics|
|Publication status||Published - 2000|