The guanine nucleotide-exchange factor eIF2B mediates the exchange of GDP bound to translation initiation factor eIF2 for GTP. This exchange process is a key regulatory step for the control of translation initiation in eukaryotic organisms. To improve our understanding of the structure, function and regulation of eIF2B, we have obtained and sequenced cDNA species encoding all of its five subunits. Here we report the sequences of eIF2Bβ and Δ from rat. This paper focuses on sequence similarities between the α, β and Δ subunits of mammalian eIF2B. Earlier work showed that the amino acid sequences of the corresponding subunits of eIF2B in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (GCN3, GCD7 and GCD2) exhibit considerable similarity. We demonstrate that this is also true for the mammalian subunits. Moreover, alignment of the eIF2Bα, β and Δ sequences from mammals and yeast, along with the sequence of the putative eIF2Bα subunit from Caenorhabditis elegans and eIF2BΔ from Schizosaccharomyces pombe shows that a large number of residues are identical or conserved between the C-terminal regions of all these sequences. This strong sequence conservation points to the likely functional importance of these residues. The implications of this are discussed in the light of results concerning the functions of the subunits of eIF2B in yeast and mammals. Our results also indicate that the large apparent differences in mobility on SDS/PAGE between eIF2Bβ and Δ subunits from rat and rabbit are not due to differences in their lengths but reflect differences in amino acid composition. We have also examined the relative expression of mRNA species encoding the α, β, Δ and ϵ subunits of eIF2B in a range of rat tissues by Northern blot analysis. As might be expected for mRNA species encoding subunits of a heterotrimeric protein, the ratios of expression levels of these subunits to one another did not vary between the different rat tissues examined (with the possible exception of liver). This represents the first analysis of the levels of expression of mRNA species encoding the different subunits of eIF2B.

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