Monoallelic yet combinatorial expression of variable exons of the protocadherin-alpha gene cluster in single neurons

Nat Genet. 2005 Feb;37(2):171-6. doi: 10.1038/ng1500. Epub 2005 Jan 9.


Diverse protocadherin-alpha genes (Pcdha, also called cadherin-related neuronal receptor or CNR) are expressed in the vertebrate brain. Their genomic organization involves multiple variable exons and a set of constant exons, similar to the immunoglobulin (Ig) and T-cell receptor (TCR) genes. This diversity can be used to distinguish neurons. Using polymorphisms that distinguish the C57BL/6 and MSM mouse strains, we analyzed the allelic expression of the Pcdha gene cluster in individual neurons. Single-cell analysis of Purkinje cells using multiple RT-PCR reactions showed the monoallelic and combinatorial expression of each variable exon in the Pcdha genes. This report is the first description to our knowledge of the allelic expression of a diversified receptor family in the central nervous system. The allelic and combinatorial expression of distinct variable exons of the Pcdha genes is a potential mechanism for specifying neuron identity in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Exons
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cadherins

Associated data

  • RefSeq/NM_009960
  • RefSeq/NM_138662