Serum paraoxonase hydrolyzes the toxic metabolites of a variety of organophosphorus insecticides. High serum paraoxonase levels appear to protect against the neurotoxic effects of organophosphorus substrates of this enzyme [Costa et al. (1990) Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 103, 66-76]. The amino acid sequence accounting for 42% of rabbit paraoxonase was determined by (1) gas-phase sequencing of the intact protein and (2) peptide fragments from lysine and arginine digests. From these data, two oligonucleotide probes were synthesized and used to screen a rabbit liver cDNA library. A clone was isolated and sequenced, and contained a 1294-bp insert encoding an open reading frame of 359 amino acids. Northern blot hybridization with RNA isolated from various rabbit tissues indicated that paraoxonase mRNA is synthesized predominately, if not exclusively, in the liver. Southern blot experiments suggested that rabbit paraoxonase is coded by a single gene and is not a family member of closely related genes. Human paraoxonase clones were isolated from a liver cDNA library by using the rabbit cDNA as a hybridization probe. Inserts from three of the longest clones were sequenced, and one full-length clone contained an open reading frame encoding 355 amino acids, four less than the rabbit paraoxonase protein. Each of the human clones appeared to be polyadenylated at a different site, consistent with the absence of the canonical polyadenylation signal sequence. Of potential significance with respect to the paraoxonase polymorphism, the derived amino acid sequence from one of the partial human cDNA clones differed at two positions from the full-length clone. Amino-terminal sequences derived from purified rabbit and human paraoxonase proteins suggested that the signal sequence is retained, with the exception of the initiator methionine residue [Furlong et al. (1991) Biochemistry (preceding paper in this issue)]. Characterization of the rabbit and human paraoxonase cDNA clones confirms that the signal sequences are not processed, except for the N-terminal methionine residue. The rabbit and human cDNA clones demonstrate striking nucleotide and deduced amino acid similarities (greater than 85%), suggesting an important metabolic role and constraints on the evolution of this protein.
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