A new member of the thrombospondin gene family, designated thrombospondin-4, has been identified in the Xenopus laevis genome. The predicted amino acid sequence indicates that the protein is similar to the other members of this gene family in the structure of the type 3 repeats and the COOH-terminal domain. Thrombospondin-4 contains four type 2 repeats and lacks the type 1 repeats that are found in thrombospondin-1 and 2. The amino-terminal domain of thrombospondin-4 has no significant homology with the other members of the thrombospondin gene family or with other proteins in the database. RNAse protection analysis establishes that the initial expression of Xenopus thrombospondin-4 is observed during neurulation. Levels of mRNA expression increase twofold during tailbud stages but decrease by the feeding tadpole stage. The size of the thrombospondin-4 message is 3.3 Kb and 3.4 Kb in the frog and human, respectively. Northern blot analysis of human tissues reveals high levels of thrombospondin-4 expression in heart and skeletal muscle, low levels in brain, lung and pancreas and undetectable levels in the placenta, liver and kidney. These data establish the existence of a new member of the thrombospondin gene family that may participate in the genesis and function of cardiac and skeletal muscle.

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