Trichohyalin is a highly expressed protein within the inner root sheath of hair follicles and is similar, or identical, to a protein present in the hair medulla. In situ hybridization studies have shown that trichohyalin is a very early differentiation marker in both tissues and that in each case the trichohyalin mRNA is expressed from the same single copy gene. A partial cDNA clone for sheep trichohyalin has been isolated and represents approximately 40% of the full-length trichohyalin mRNA. The carboxy-terminal 458 amino acids of trichohyalin are encoded, and the first 429 amino acids consist of full- or partial-length tandem repeats of a 23 amino acid sequence. These repeats are characterized by a high proportion of charged amino acids. Secondary structure analyses predict that the majority of the encoded protein could form alpha-helical structures that might form filamentous aggregates of intermediate filament dimensions, even though the heptad motif obligatory for the intermediate filament structure itself is absent. The alternative structural role of trichohyalin could be as an intermediate filament-associated protein, as proposed from other evidence.

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