ApoC-I, the smallest of the soluble apolipoproteins, associates with both TG-rich lipoproteins and HDL. Mass spectral analyses of human apoC-I previously had demonstrated that in the circulation there are two forms, either a 57 amino acid protein or a 55 amino acid protein, due to the loss of two amino acids from the N-terminus. In our analyses of the apolipoproteins of the other great apes by mass spectrometry, four forms of apoC-I were detected. Two of these showed a high degree of identity to the mature and truncated forms of human apoC-I. The other two were homologous to the virtual protein and its truncated form that are encoded by a human pseudogene. In humans, the genes for apoC-I and its pseudogene are located on chromosome 19, the pseudogene being 2.5 kb downstream from the apoC-I gene. Based on the similarity between the apoC-I gene and the pseudogene, it has been concluded that the latter arose from the former as a result of gene duplication approximately 35 million years ago. Interestingly, the virtual protein encoded by the pseudogene is acidic, not basic like apoC-I. In the chimpanzee, there also are two genes for apoC-I, the one upstream encodes a basic protein and the downstream gene, rather than being a pseudogene, encodes an acidic protein (P86336). In addition to reporting on the molecular masses of great ape apoC-I, we were able to clearly demonstrate by "Top-down" sequencing that the acidic form arose from a separate gene. In our analyses, we have measured the molecular masses of apoC-I associated with the HDL of the following great apes: bonobo (Pan paniscus), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), and the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Genomic variations in chromosome 19 among great apes, baboons and macaques as they relate to both genes for apoC-I and the pseudogene are compared and discussed.
Keywords: Great apes; apolipoprotein C-I; human pseudogene; mass spectrometry; top down sequencing.