The structural organization of the gene for the human cysteine-proteinase inhibitor cystatin C was studied. Restriction-endonuclease digests of human genomic DNA hybridized with human cystatin C cDNA and genomic probes produced patterns consistent with a single cystatin C gene and, also, the presence of six closely related sequences in the human genome. A 30 kb restriction map covering the genomic region of the cystatin C gene was constructed. The positions of three polymorphic restriction sites, found at examination of digests of genomic DNA from 79 subjects, were localized in the flanking regions of the gene. The gene was cloned and the nucleotide sequence of a 7.3 kb genomic segment was determined, containing the three exons of the cystatin C structural gene as well as 1.0 kb of 5′-flanking and 2.0 kb of 3′-flanking sequences. Northern-blot experiments revealed that the cystatin C gene is expressed in every human tissue examined, including kidney, liver, pancreas, intestine, stomach, antrum, lung and placenta. The highest cystatin C expression was seen in seminal vesicles. The apparently non-tissue-specific expression of this cysteine-proteinase inhibitor gene is discussed with respect to the structure of its 5′-flanking region, which shares several features with those of housekeeping genes.

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