Aggrecan transcripts contain two alternatively spliced exons that code for two epidermal growth factor-like domains (EGF1 and EGF2). Whereas the EGF2 sequence is expressed at a uniform level among different species, the EGF1 sequence has been detected only in human aggrecan transcripts. In this study we have used the nested primer reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) method to compare the expression of the EGF1 exon in human, bovine and dog aggrecan transcripts. Our results indicate that this exon is expressed in a species-specific manner. In addition to its significant expression level in human transcripts, the EGF1 sequence can be detected in a small portion of bovine aggrecan transcripts as shown with nested primer RT-PCR. In contrast, the same module is not detectable in dog aggrecan transcripts, although an EGF1 sequence is present in the dog aggrecan gene. The expression level of the EGF1 exon in the aggrecan transcripts correlates with the strength of the polypyrimidine tract upstream of the exon. The EGF1 sequence also shows much less conservation between the species than the EGF2 sequence. The species-specific expression and high sequence variation of the EGF1 exon imply that this sequence is likely to code for an aggrecan domain having no cartilage-specific function.

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