To identify novel genes induced during innate immune activation, we screened a cDNA library prepared from monocytes stimulated with Mycobacterium bovis BCG cell wall. A novel transcript with three-protein coding potential was identified, and the expressed proteins from individual frames showed distinct intracellular localization. Live and heat-killed Mycobacterium, bacterial cell wall, and inflammatory cytokines like TNFα were found to be potent inducers of the transcript. Expression of this gene is very low or undetectable in unstimulated monocytes, while a steady expression level was observed during differentiation of monocytes to dendritic cells and macrophages. The entire gene consisted of eight major exons and was localized on chromosome 4q22-q24, spanning ∼84 kb. The main open reading frame of the transcript encoded a putative seven-transmembrane (TM) protein that showed homology with a number of functionally unknown proteins in the database. Further analysis revealed that all of these proteins have detectable similarity with the ZIP family of metal transporters. In fact, increased accumulation of intracellular Zn2+ was observed due to the expression of BIGM103 in CHO cells. However, the identified proteins are structurally unique compared to known ZIP members and they also possess the hallmark of Zn-metalloproteases, suggesting a new class of multi-TM protein with dual features. Here we present a collection of these proteins and discuss the functional aspects of BIGM103, based on our results and current findings on two members of the family, Drosophila Catsup and Arabidopsis IAR1.
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