Members of the titin/myosin light chain kinase family play an essential role in the organization of the actin/myosin cytoskeleton, especially in sarcomere assembly and function. In Drosophila melanogaster, projectin is so far the only member of this family for which a transcription unit has been characterized. The locus of another member of this family, a protein related to Myosin light chain kinase, was also identified. The cDNA and genomic sequences published explain only the shorter transcripts expressed by this locus. Here, we report the complete molecular characterization of this transcription unit, which spans 38 kb, includes 33 exons and accounts for transcripts up to 25 kb in length. This transcription unit contains both the largest exon (12,005 nt) and the largest coding region (25,213 nt) reported so far for Drosophila. This transcription unit features both internal promoters and internal polyadenylation signals, which enable it to express seven different transcripts, ranging from 3.3 to 25 kb in size. The latter encodes a huge, titin-like, 926 kDa kinase that features two large PEVK-rich repeats, 32 immunoglobulin and two fibronectin type-III domains, which we designate stretchin-MLCK. In addition, the 3' end of the stretchin-MLCK transcription unit expresses shorter transcripts that encode 86 to 165 kDa isoforms of stretchin-MLCK that are analogous to vertebrate Myosin light chain kinases. Similarly, the 5' end of the Stretchin-Mlck transcription unit can also express transcripts encoding kettin and Unc-89-like isoforms, which share no sequences with the MLCK-like transcripts. Thus, this locus can be viewed as a single transcription unit, Stretchin-Mlck (genetic abbreviation Strn-Mlck), that expresses large, composite transcripts and protein isoforms (sequences available at http://www.academicpress.com/jmb), as well as a complex of two independent transcription units, the Stretchin and Mlck transcription units (Strn and Mlck, respectively) the result of a "gene fission" event, that encode independent transcripts and proteins with distinct structural and enzymatic functions.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.