Update on the human and mouse lipocalin (LCN) gene family, including evidence the mouse Mup cluster is result of an "evolutionary bloom"

Hum Genomics. 2019 Feb 19;13(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s40246-019-0191-9.


Lipocalins (LCNs) are members of a family of evolutionarily conserved genes present in all kingdoms of life. There are 19 LCN-like genes in the human genome, and 45 Lcn-like genes in the mouse genome, which include 22 major urinary protein (Mup) genes. The Mup genes, plus 29 of 30 Mup-ps pseudogenes, are all located together on chromosome (Chr) 4; evidence points to an "evolutionary bloom" that resulted in this Mup cluster in mouse, syntenic to the human Chr 9q32 locus at which a single MUPP pseudogene is located. LCNs play important roles in physiological processes by binding and transporting small hydrophobic molecules -such as steroid hormones, odorants, retinoids, and lipids-in plasma and other body fluids. LCNs are extensively used in clinical practice as biochemical markers. LCN-like proteins (18-40 kDa) have the characteristic eight β-strands creating a barrel structure that houses the binding-site; LCNs are synthesized in the liver as well as various secretory tissues. In rodents, MUPs are involved in communication of information in urine-derived scent marks, serving as signatures of individual identity, or as kairomones (to elicit fear behavior). MUPs also participate in regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism via a mechanism not well understood. Although much has been learned about LCNs and MUPs in recent years, more research is necessary to allow better understanding of their physiological functions, as well as their involvement in clinical disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Lipocalins / genetics*
  • Lipocalins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Multigene Family


  • Lipocalins