Growth hormone (GH) belongs to a family of pituitary hormones together with prolactin and somatolactin. In our previous study, GH and its cDNA were identified in the pituitary gland of the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, an extant representative of the most ancient class of vertebrates, and isolated GH stimulated expression of insulin-like growth factor in the liver. The evidence suggests that GH is the ancestral hormone in the molecular evolution of the GH/PRL/SL family and that the endocrine mechanism for growth stimulation was established at an early stage in the evolution of vertebrates. To further understand the molecular evolution of the GH/PRL/SL gene family, we report the genomic structure of sea lamprey GH including its 5′-flanking region, being cloned by PCR using specific primers prepared from its cDNA. The sea lamprey GH gene consists of 13,604 bp, making it the largest of all the GH genes. The 5′-flanking region within 697 bp contains consensus sequences for a TATA box, two Pit-1/GHF-1, three TRE, and a CRE. The sea lamprey GH gene consists of five exons and four introns, the same as in mammals, birds, and teleosts such as cypriniforms and siluriforms with the exception of some teleosts such as salmoniforms, percififorms, and tetradontiforms, in which there is an additional intron in the 5th exon. The 5-exon-type gene organization might reflect the structure of the ancestral gene for the GH/PRL/SL gene family.
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