The 45-kb unit of major urinary protein gene organization is a gigantic imperfect palindrome

Mol Cell Biol. 1985 Jul;5(7):1591-600. doi: 10.1128/mcb.5.7.1591.


The multigene family which codes for the mouse major urinary proteins consists of about 35 genes. Most of these are members of two distinct groups, group 1 and group 2. The group 1 and group 2 genes are organized in head-to-head pairs within 12 to 15 remarkably uniform chromosomal units or domains about 45 kilobase pairs (kb) in size. The 45-kb units are located on chromosome 4, and many of them are adjacent to each other. We propose that the 45-kb unit is a unit both of organization and of evolutionary change. In this study the homologies within the unit were observed by examining, in an electron microscope, heteroduplex and foldback structures made from cloned major urinary protein genes. These show that the 45-kb unit is a gigantic imperfect palindrome. Each arm of the palindrome contains two regions of inverted symmetry of 9.5 and 4.5 kb separated by a 3-kb nonsymmetrical region. We argue that the nonsymmetrical regions arose by a series of deletion events in the two arms of the palindrome. The center of the 45-kb unit is an 8-kb sequence without inverted symmetry flanked by the 9.5-kb regions, which contain the 4-kb genes and their immediate 5' and 3' flanking regions. The junction between adjacent 45-kb units is a 2- to 4-kb sequence without inverted symmetry flanked by the 4.5-kb regions. Some of the 45-kb units are arranged as direct tandem repeats. Others appear to be in inverted orientation with respect to a neighboring unit. Cloned major urinary protein genes show few incidences of the repetitive elements B1, B2, R, and MIF. Two elements, a B1 and an R, may be a constant feature of the 45-kb units. If so, in those cases in which the units are in tandem array, both of these elements will occur with a 45-kb periodicity. A comparison of corresponding parts of different 45-kb units shows that they differ because of a number of deletion or insertion events, particularly in the regions 3' to the genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Genes
  • Mice
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid


  • Proteins
  • major urinary proteins