Akhirin, a novel secreted protein of 90 kDa, has been identified using signal sequence trap cDNA screening of an embryonic day 6 chicken lens cDNA library. Akhirin consists of one LCCL (Limulus factor C, Coch-5b2, and Lgl1) domain and two von Willebrand factor domains and displays high structural homology to vitrin and cochlin. The earliest expression of Akhirin is observed in the head ectoderm overlying the lens vesicle at stage 17 and in the retinal pigment epithelial layer at stage 22. It is persistently expressed in the ciliary marginal zone and in lens epithelium cells throughout embryonic eye development. Immunostaining with anti-Akhirin monoclonal antibody revealed a punctate distribution of Akhirin protein on living transfected cells. Cell adhesion and cell aggregation experiments showed that Akhirin has heterophilic cell-adhesion activity. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that Akhirin is involved in eye development.
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