We have characterized the mouse ortholog of the human ubiquitin-specific protease USP15. Mouse Usp15 consists of 981 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 112 kDa, contains the highly conserved Cys and His boxes present in all members of the UBP family of deubiquitinating enzymes, and is 98% identical/99% similar to human USP15. Usp15 shares 59.5% identity/75.5% sequence similarity with the mouse Unp(Usp4) oncoprotein. Recombinant Usp15 demonstrated ubiquitin-specific protease activity against engineered linear fusions of ubiquitin to glutathione S-transferase. Usp15 can also cleave the ubiquitin-proline bond, as can USP15 and Usp4. Alignment of mouse and human Usp15 and Usp4 protein sequences suggested that Usp15/ USP15 may be alternately spliced in a manner analogous to Usp4. Sequence analysis of RT-PCR products from several human and mouse cell lines and tissues revealed alternate splicing in all cells studied. Northern blot analysis of both mouse and human Usp15 revealed two differently sized mRNAs in all tissues examined, owing to alternate polyadenylation sites spaced by 1.5 kb. Chromosomal mapping by interspecific backcross analysis localized the Usp15 gene to the distal region of mouse Chromosome (Chr) 10. This region is syntenic with human Chr 12q24, the location of human USP15, and a different location to Unp(Usp4) (Chr 9). Identification of the mouse Usp15 gene (>69.5 kb) and human USP15 gene (145 kb) sequences in genome databases reveals that both are composed of 22 exons with identical splice sites, and both have an exon/intron structure identical to the mouse Usp4 gene, including the alternately spliced exon. Phylogenetic studies suggest that a sequence currently identified as a chicken Usp4 ortholog is in fact a Usp15 ortholog, while bona-fide chicken, cow, and rat Usp4 orthologs can be identified in EST databases.
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