ζ-Crystallin is a protein highly expressed in the lens of guinea pigs and camels, where it comprises about 10% of the total soluble protein. It has recently been characterized as a novel quinone oxidoreductase present in a variety of mammalian tissues. We report here the isolation and characterization of the human ζ-crystallin gene (CRYZ) and its processed pseudogene. The functional gene is composed of nine exons and spans about 20 kb. The 5′-flanking region of the gene is rich in G and C (58%) and lacks TATA and CAAT boxes. Previous analysis of the guinea pig gene revealed the presence of two different promoters, one responsible for the high lens-specific expression and the other for expression at the enzymatic level in numerous tissues. Comparative analysis with the guinea pig gene shows that a region of ∼2.5 kb that includes the promoter responsible for the high expression in the lens in guinea pig is not present in the human gene.
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