Dystrophin-related and dystrophin-associated proteins (DAPs) are thought to play an important role in the stability and maintenance of the plasma membrane during muscle contraction and relaxation. Studies conducted on the electric organg of Torpedo californica have shown that some of the DAPs are also involved in the formation and maintenance of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). In addition, dystrophin and several DAPs have been shown to be the primary genetic defect in a number of phenotypically similar muscular dystrophies. We previously reported the identification and characterization of human dystrobrevin, a protein which is unique in being both homologous to dystrophin and a dystrophin-associated protein. Here we describe the genomic organization of the human dystrobrevin gene. It is encoded by 23 exons spanning at least 180 kb of chromosome 18q12. Three different C-termini of dystrobrevin are generated by the mutually exclusive mRNA splicing of three exons. Two alternatively spliced exons (exons 11A and 12) are utilized exclusively in striated muscles. A comparison between the genomic organization of dystrophin and human dystrobrevin shows that the two genes have significant similarities in their genomic structure, implying an ancestral or evolutionary relationship. Based on intronic sequence, a primer set was designed to specifically amplify each exon of dystrobrevin to screen for mutations by SSCP in patients with neuromuscular diseases for which dystrobrevin could be a candidate.
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