MICA and MICB genes encode MHC class I chain-related proteins, which are polymorphic, do not appear to present peptides or associate with β2-microglobulin, and are expressed predominantly in epithelial cells, endothelial cells, fibroblasts and several cultured cell lines. Alternatively spliced isoforms are known to exist for HLA-A and B, as well as HLA-G and the MHC class I-related gene, MR1. In the course of cloning MICA and MICB cDNA from the colon carcinoma cell line HCT 116, it was observed that two kinds of cDNAs were obtained: a 1161-bp cDNA, representing full-length MICA or MICB, and a shorter variant of 873 bp. The sequences of these short cDNAs were those of the correct MICA or MICB alleles but lacking exon 3. They were found in 7 of 72 clones examined or about 10% and were called MICA2 and MICB2. MICA1 and MICA2 were transfected into Chinese hamster ovary cells and found to be expressed both in the cells and on their surface. PCR with a primer based on a sequence formed by the joining of exons 2 and 4 allowed detection of the isoform RNA in different cells including freshly prepared normal PBMC.
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