We report here the identification and characterization of the mouse homologue of a human CX3C chemokine described by F. Bazan et al. (1997, Nature 385, 640-644). Termed fractalkine, this molecule constitutes a fourth or chemokine structural type that displays a novel CX3C sequence fingerprint. Distinct from the α, β, or γ chemokine families, the polypeptide chain of CX3C predicts a 373-amino-acid type I transmembrane glycoprotein with the chemokine domain resting on top of an extended mucin- like stalk. Comparison of the mouse and human protein chains shows a high degree of conservation in all the globular segments with the exception of the stalk portion. The striking identity of an amino acid stretch encompassing a putative juxtamembrane cleavage site suggests the evolutionary conservation of both membrane-bound and processed CX3C forms. Northern analysis reveals the presence of mouse CX3C mRNA in heart, brain, lung, kidney, skeletal muscle, and testis tissues. The mouse CX3C gene was further localized to the central region of chromosome 8 by interspecific backcross mapping; a related locus was detected on chromosome 11. The novel location of this gene from other chemokine gene clusters adds to the notion that CX3C is a fundamentally new class of chemokine.
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