A cluster of 21 keratin-associated protein genes within introns of another gene on human chromosome 21q22.3.
Recently, we identified multiple unique sequences in the 21q22.3 region and predicted them to be a cluster of genes encoding hair-specific keratin-associated proteins (KAPs). Detailed computer-aided analysis of these clustered genes revealed that the cluster spans over 165 kb and consists of 21 KAP-related sequences including 16 putative genes and 5 pseudogenes. These were further divided into two subfamilies, KRTAP12 (KRTAP12.1-12.4 and KRTAP12.5P) and KRTAP18 (KRTAP18.1-18.12 and KRTAP18.13P-18.16P). All 16 putative genes possess several intragenic repeat sequences and apparently belong to the high-sulfur KAP gene family (16-30% cysteine content) known for nonhuman mammalian species. Transcripts were detected by RT-PCR analysis for all 16 putative KAP genes and their expression was restricted to hair root cells (radix pili cells) and not found in 28 other tissues, including skin. All 16 KAP genes produced unspliced transcripts, indicating their nature to be that of active intronless genes. Interestingly, all these KAP-related genes are located within introns of the recently identified gene TSPEAR (approved gene symbol C21orf29), 214 kb in size. Surprisingly, the transcriptional direction of 8 of the 16 active genes is the same as that of C21orf29/TSPEAR. This finding suggests a novel transcription mechanism in which C21orf29/TSPEAR gene transcription passes over the multiple transcriptional termination sites of the KAP genes.