Characterization of Novel Lymphoid-Associated Genes Identified by Gene-Trapping: a Dissertation

Publication Date

April 2006

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Program in Immunology/Virology


Gene Expression Regulation; Hematopoietic Stem Cells; B-Lymphocytes; T-Lymphocytes; DNA, Recombinant; Academic Dissertations


The discovery of novel genes involved in hematopoietic development and lymphoid function is necessary for the understanding of these systems. To this end, we utilized transmembrane protein-specific gene trapping in embryonic stem (ES) cells, a method of forward genetics, to identify a novel, complex locus from which several splice variants arise. The trapped locus identified in the KST30 ES cell clone encodes several genes including outer membrane protein 25 (OMP25) and activin receptor interacting protein (ARIP2) and two novel genes, AK74 and AK88. AK74 is highly conserved between human and mouse with 85% identity at the amino acid level. The human homolog was cloned from CD34+ cord blood hematopoietic stem cell progenitors (HSCPs) implying that it may have a role in the hematopoietic system.

We generated mice from the gene trapped ES cells, called KST30 mice, to analyze the expression pattern of transcripts from the trapped locus in the hematopoietic system. Utilizing the gene trap LacZ reporter and RT-PCR, we found that AK88 and AK74 are expressed in hematopoietic stem cells and thymocytes and that AK88 and ARIP2 are dramatically up-regulated in activated Band T lymphocytes. In addition, we found restricted expression of the gene trap in most non-lymphoid tissues.

Interestingly, the expression pattern of the gene trap coincides with the expression of activin signaling components in many cell types including thymocytes, activated B cells, hematopoietic stem cells and the ductal cells of the pancreas. AK74, AK88 and ARIP2 share two exons that encode a 44 amino acid region. ARIP2 negatively regulates activin signaling through endocytosis of Activin type II receptors. The N-terminal PDZ domain associates with ActRII and mediates endocytosis via association with RalBP1. The region of ARIP2 that associates with RalBP1 encompasses the 44 amino acid region also found in AK74 and AK88, suggesting that these proteins may also associate with RalBP1, perhaps sequestering it from ARIP2. This possibility combined with the similarities between gene trap expression and expression of the components of activin signaling indicates a role of the trapped genes in activin signaling.

AK74 and AK88 have a signal sequence and transmembrane domain that are predicted to direct them to mitochondria. To confirm this prediction, we examined the subcellular localization of AK74 and found that it localizes to a punctate, perinuclear structure identified as mitochondria using a mitochondria specific dye. AK74 was not seen in the cytoplasm, nucleus or at the plasma membrane of cells.

To determine the function of these novel genes, AK74 was retrovirally over-expressed in a double positive thymoma cell line and examined the global expression profile using Affymetrix gene chip. AK74 changed the expression levels of 36 genes greater than 3-fold compared to vector alone. Of these genes, several are involved in cytoskeletal rearrangement, apoptosis or are regulated by calcium signaling. Using yeast two-hybrid, several candidate binding partners for AK74 were identified, one of which is the receptor for activated protein kinase C (RACK1). RACK1 was also identified as a potential binding partner for AK88. RACK1 is a WD40 domain-containing scaffolding protein that has been implicated in many pathways but most prominently in the protein kinase C signaling pathway. Association with RACK1 by either AK74 or AK88 suggests that they may be involved in RACK1 function. Both RACK1 and PKC are involved with Ca2+ signaling through different mechanisms. This, combined with global gene expression changes in AK74 over-expressing cells suggests a role for AK74, AK88 or ARIP2 in Ca2+ signaling.

When we examined the expression of the trapped genes in mice homozygous for the gene-trapped allele (KST30tr/tr) we found that insertion of the gene trap caused a severe decrease in AK88 and ARIP2 but not AK74 transcripts. Analysis of KST30tr/tr mice showed no abnormalities in conventional lymphoid populations and precursors, however, intraepithelial lymphocyte (IEL) populations were altered by the loss of AK88 and/or ARIP2. There was an approximate 2-fold decrease CD8αα+ T cells in the small intestine while CD8αβ+ T cells were largely unaltered.

Using gene trap technology, we have identified two novel, mitochondria-localized proteins. The cumulative findings described in this thesis, including the homology between AK74, AK88 and ARIP2, their expression pattern and the phenotype of KST30tr/tr mice, suggest possible roles of AK74 and AK88 in diverse pathways.


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