Voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs) are small, integral membrane proteins that traverse the outer mitochondrial membrane and conduct ATP and other small metabolites. They are known to bind several kinases of intermediary metabolism in a tissue-specific fashion, have been found in close association with the adenine nucleotide translocator of the inner mitochondrial membrane, and are hypothesized to form part of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, which results in the release of cytochrome c at the onset of apoptotic cell death. VDACs are found throughout all strata of eukaryotic evolution and exhibit biophysical characteristics that are well conserved from yeast to mammals. The mammalian VDAC gene family consists of three isoforms, each of which shares approximately 70% sequence identity with the other two family members. Recently, we reported that a single codon (ATG) exon is alternatively spliced into the transcript of the type 3 voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC3) in a tissue-specific fashion. This unusual splicing event was shown to be conserved between mouse and human, and we theorized that the spliced exon could lead to the creation of an alternative translational initiation site. Here we report that a highly specific polyclonal VDAC3 antibody was unable to detect the truncated protein isoform indicative of this putative downstream start site. From these in vivo studies, we conclude that the alternatively spliced exon results in the insertion of a single methionine residue at amino acid position 39 of the mature VDAC3 protein. Additionally, we have used a cross-species genomic sequence comparison to identify conserved regions that may be involved in the regulation of small exon splicing.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.