MUC1-ARF - A novel MUC1 protein that resides in the nucleus and is expressed by alternate reading frame translation of MUC1 mRNA

Michael Chalick, Oded Jacobi, Edward Pichinuk, Christian Garbar, Armand Bensussan, Alan Meeker, Ravit Ziv, Tania Zehavi, Nechama I. Smorodinsky, John Hilkens, Franz Georg Hanisch, Daniel B. Rubinstein, Daniel H. Wreschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Translation of mRNA in alternate reading frames (ARF) is a naturally occurring process heretofore underappreciated as a generator of protein diversity. The MUC1 gene encodes MUC1-TM, a signal-transducing trans-membrane protein highly expressed in human malignancies. Here we show that an AUG codon downstream to the MUC1-TM initiation codon initiates an alternate reading frame thereby generating a novel protein, MUC1-ARF. MUC1-ARF, like its MUC1-TM 'parent' protein, contains a tandem repeat (VNTR) domain. However, the amino acid sequence of the MUC1-ARF tandem repeat as well as N- and Csequences flanking it differ entirely from those of MUC1-TM. In vitro protein synthesis assays and extensive immunohistochemical as well as western blot analyses with MUC1-ARF specific monoclonal antibodies confirmed MUC1-ARF expression. Rather than being expressed at the cell membrane like MUC1-TM, immunostaining showed that MUC1-ARF protein localizes mainly in the nucleus: Immunohistochemical analyses of MUC1-expressing tissues demonstrated MUC1-ARF expression in the nuclei of secretory luminal epithelial cells. MUC1-ARF expression varies in different malignancies. While the malignant epithelial cells of pancreatic cancer show limited expression, in breast cancer tissue MUC1-ARF demonstrates strong nuclear expression. Proinflammatory cytokines upregulate expression of MUC1-ARF protein and co-immunoprecipitation analyses demonstrate association of MUC1-ARF with SH3 domain-containing proteins. Mass spectrometry performed on proteins coprecipitating with MUC1-ARF demonstrated Glucose-6-phosphate 1-dehydrogenase (G6PD) and Dynamin 2 (DNM2). These studies not only reveal that the MUC1 gene generates a previously unidentified MUC1-ARF protein, they also show that just like its 'parent' MUC1-TM protein, MUC1-ARF is apparently linked to signaling and malignancy, yet a definitive link to these processes and the roles it plays awaits a precise identification of its molecular functions. Comprising at least 524 amino acids, MUC1-ARF is, furthermore, the longest ARF protein heretofore described.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0165031
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2016


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