The complete exon-intron organization of the human aggrecan gene has been defined, and the exon organization has been compared with the individual domains of the protein core. A yeast artificial chromosome containing the aggrecan gene was selected from the Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humaine yeast artificial chromosome library. A cosmid sulibrary was created from this, and direct sequencing of individual cosmids was used to provide the exon-intron organization. The human aggrecan gene was found to be composed of 19 exons ranging in size from 77 to 4224 bp. Exon 1 is non-coding, whereas exons 2-19 code for a protein core of 2454 amino acids with a calculated mass of 254379 Da. Intron 1 of the gene is at least 13 kb. Overall, the sizes of the 18 introns range from 0.5 to greater than 13 kb. Each intron begins with a GT and ends with an AG, thus obeying the GT/AG rule of splice-junction sequences. The entire coding region is contained in 39.4 kb of the gene. The organization of exons is strongly related to the specific domains of the protein core. The A loop of G1 and the interglobular domain are encoded by exons 3 and 7 respectively. The B and B' loops of G1 are encoded by exons 4-6, and those of G2 are encoded by exons 8-10. These sets of exons, coding for the B and B' loops, are identical in size and organization. This is supported by the intron classes associated with these exons. Exon 11 codes for the 5′ half of the keratan sulphate-rich region, and exon 12 codes for the 3′ half of the keratan sulphate-rich region as well as the entire chondroitin sulphate-rich region. G3 is encoded by exons 13-18, including the alternatively spliced epidermal growth factor-like and complement regulatory protein-like domains. The correspondence between the exon organization and the protein domains argues strongly for modular assembly of the aggrecan gene.

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