The fiber cell of the vertebrate ocular lens assembles a cytoskeletal structure, the beaded filament, which contains two proteins unique to the fiber cell: CP49 (phakinin) and CP115/CP95 (filensin). We report here the complete primary sequence and gene structure for human CP49. These data show that CP49 is a member of the intermediate filament family, but highly unusual in several regards. 1) CP49 primary sequence does not permit unambiguous assignment to any existing class of intermediate filament protein, but exhibits a gene structure that is identical to the Type I cytokeratins. 2) CP49 essentially lacks one of the three major domains that characterize all intermediate filament proteins, the carboxyl-terminal tail domain. 3) CP49 shows substitutions at 3 of 4 residues in the otherwise highly conserved intermediate filament protein motif LNDR. Notably, this divergence includes an Arg to Cys substitution that has only been observed in the mutant human cytokeratin K14, a mutation shown to cause the skin blistering seen in the genetic disorder Dowling-Meara epidermolysis bullosa simplex.
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