αB-Crystallin is a member of the α-crystallin/small heat shock protein (hsp) family and under various neuropathologic conditions accumulates in reactive astrocytes and degenerating neurons. In the 5'-flanking region of the αB-crystallin gene on human chromosome 11q22-q23, where a constitutive DNase I hypersensitive site is located, we identified a gene transcribed in the opposite direction. Analysis of its mRNA structure by RT-PCR and 5'/3'RACE revealed that this gene is composed of two exons and encodes a new member of the α-crystallin/small hsp family. This gene was designated the HSPB2 gene by the HMGW Nomenclature Committee. The complete genomic structure of the rat homologue was also determined. Northern blot analysis revealed that the HSPB2 gene is expressed preferentially in skeletal muscle and heart but not in the lens, while the neighboring αB-crystallin gene is highly expressed in all three tissues. The two related genes are arranged in a head- to-head manner with an intergenic sequence of less than 1 kb, raising a possibility of shared regulatory elements for their expression.
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