Serum amyloid A protein (SAA) is a major acute-phase protein in humans and most other mammals. In addition, it is the serum precursor of the major protein constituent of reactive amyloid fibrils. Sequence analyses have identified a number of polymorphic forms of human SAA and amyloid A protein (AA), but the question of the number of genes encoding SAA in the human has not been addressed. In addition, there are insufficient data to predict whether one form of SAA predisposes to amyloid fibril formation. In the present study three separate SAA proteins have been isolated from the plasma of one individual and completely sequenced. While two of the SAA forms (SAA2α and SAA2β) differ from each other only at position 71, they differ from the most abundant form (SAA1) at seven and eight other positions, respectively. Nucleotide sequencing of cDNAs from a liver library of this individual identified all three mRNAs coding for these proteins and proved that: (a) the often-reported absence of arginine at the amino terminus of SAA proteins must result from proteolytic processing of the protein; (b) the polymorphism involving histidine and arginine at position 71 is present at the DNA level and therefore is not due to an event at the translational level; (c) there are at least two genes coding for human SAA. Comparison of these data to published sequences of SAA and AA proteins may help in identifying genetically determined forms of SAA which predispose to reactive amyloid fibril formation.
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