Abundant adrenal-specific transcription of the human P450c21A "pseudogene"

J Biol Chem. 1993 Jun 15;268(17):12919-24.


Human adrenal steroid 21-hydroxylase (P450c21) is encoded by the CYP21A1 (21B) gene located in the class III region of the HLA locus. A tandemly duplicated gene designated CYP21A1P (21A), which lies 30 kilobases upstream, contains several point mutations and an 8-base pair deletion so that it cannot encode P450c21 protein; as a result, it is generally considered to be a pseudogene. We previously showed that two additional genes, XA and XB, lie on the opposite strand of DNA overlapping the 3'-ends of the 21A and 21B genes. We have now identified a third pair of duplicated overlapping genes in this locus, termed YA and YB, whose transcriptional orientation is the same as 21A and 21B and opposite to XA and XB. YA transcripts use the 21A promoter, have 5'-ends that are similar to 21B mRNA, and have approximately 10-20% of the abundance of 21B transcripts, but have unique 3'-ends. The YA gene encodes a 7.5-kilobase RNA that overlaps XA completely and a 3.0-kilobase RNA that excludes most of XA. The YB gene appears to be similar in size and organization to YA. The YA and YB genes extend beyond the limit of the duplication in this locus; hence, their cDNAs are distinguishable by differences in their 3'-sequences. YA and YB transcripts are expressed only in the fetal and adult adrenal glands, but their cDNAs do not contain a long open reading frame. Although the function of these genes is not yet clear, the complex genetic organization of three overlapping genes (21/X/Y) appears to be unique among higher eukaryotes. As YA transcription is initiated by the 21A 5'-flanking DNA and includes 21A sequences, the designation of 21A as a "pseudogene" merits reconsideration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / enzymology
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern
  • DNA
  • Exons
  • Fetus
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Gene Library
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Pseudogenes*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • RNA Probes
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase / biosynthesis*
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA Probes
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase