A set of orthologous plasma proteins found in human, sheep, pig, cow and rodents, now collectively designated fetuin-A, constitutes the fetuin family. Fetuin-A has been identified as a major protein during fetal life and is also involved in important functions such as inhibition of the insulin receptor tyrosine kinase activity, protease inhibitory activities and development-associated regulation of calcium metabolism and osteogenesis. Furthermore, fetuin-A is a key partner in the recovery phase of an acute inflammatory response. We now describe a second protein of the fetuin family, called fetuin-B, which is found at least in human and rodents. On grounds of domain homology, overall conservation of cysteine residues and chromosomal assignments of the corresponding genes in these species, fetuin-B is unambiguously a paralogue of fetuin-A. Yet, fetuin-A and fetuin-B exhibit significant differences at the amino acid sequence level, notably including variations with respect to the archetypal fetuin-specific signature. Differences and similarities in terms of gene regulation were also observed. Indeed, studies performed during development in rat and mouse showed for the first time high expression of a member of the fetuin family in adulthood, as shown with the fetuin-B mRNA in rat. However, like its fetuin-A counterpart, the fetuin-B mRNA level is down-regulated during the acute phase of experimentally induced inflammation in rat.

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