Cloning and sequence analysis of the cDNA for the pituitary glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit of the European eel.
A cDNA library constructed using mRNAs isolated from pituitary glands of estradiol-treated eels was screened with a cDNA fragment for the rat glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit. Three out of 10,000 cDNA clones were revealed and subcloned in pUC13 for characterization and sequencing. All three had the same nucleotide sequence except for a single, silent change in the coding sequence for one of them, and for the location of the poly(A) tail. Analysis of the deduced amino acid sequence strongly suggests that these cDNA clones encode the precursor for the eel common glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit. This precursor would therefore consist of a 93 amino acid apoprotein preceded by a 24 amino acid long signal peptide. Alignment with glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunits from fish and mammals reveals high homology, ranging from 60 to 90%. Particularly, the ten cysteines and the two putative N-linked glycosylation sites were at the same position. Comparison between fish and mammals shows also that two regions are highly conserved, comprising about half of the protein length. This high conservation rate through evolution argues for the importance of these regions in the conservation of biological properties of the alpha-subunits. In contrast, other regions are highly variable and could be responsible for the immunological specificity. Northern blot analysis of pituitary RNA from control and estradiol-treated eels showed that estradiol treatment strongly increases the pituitary content of mRNA encoding the glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit.