A cDNA encoding the Mac-2 antigen, a surface marker highly expressed by thioglycollate-elicited macrophages, has been cloned by immunoscreening of a lambda gt11-P388D1 expression library. The nucleotide sequence of the cDNA is identical to that of carbohydrate-binding protein 35, a galactose-specific lectin found in fibroblasts and highly homologous to a rat IgE-binding protein from basophilic leukemia cells. The in vitro synthesized Mac-2 protein displayed the expected carbohydrate- and IgE-binding properties. By pulse-chase analysis and subcellular fractionation studies, the Mac-2 protein was found in the cytosol but was also seen to accumulate in the extracellular medium. The latter finding was surprising in view of the fact that the cDNA did not encode a signal peptide or transmembrane domain. An alternatively spliced cDNA with the potential to encode a NH2 terminally extended Mac-2 protein with a stretch of hydrophobic amino acids at its NH2 terminus was also found, but it is not clear whether it is the source of the extracellular Mac-2. Possible functions for the Mac-2 protein based on its lectin- and IgE-binding properties are discussed.

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