MIF proteins are mammalian polypeptides of approximately 13, 000 molecular weight. This class includes human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a rat liver protein that has glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity (TRANSMIF), and the mouse delayed early response gene 6 (DER6) protein. MIF proteins were previously linked to GSTs by demonstrating transferase activity and observing N-terminal sequence homology with a mu-class GST (Blocki, F.A., Schlievert, P.M., & Wackett, L.P., 1992, Nature 360, 269–270). In this study, MIF proteins are shown to be structurally related to the theta class of GSTs. This is established in three ways. First, unique primary sequence patterns are developed for each of the GST gene classes. The patterns identify the three MIF proteins as theta-like transferase homologs. Second, pattern analysis indicates that GST members of the theta class contain a serine residue in place of the N-terminal tyrosine that is implicated in glutathione deprotonation and activation in GSTs of known structure (Liu, S., et al., 1992, J. Biol. Chem. 267, 4296–4299). The MIF proteins contain a threonine at this position. Third, polyclonal antibodies raised against recombinant human MIF cross-react on Western blots with rat theta GST but not with alpha and mu GSTs. That MIF proteins have glutathione-binding ability may provide a common structural key toward understanding the varied functions of this widely distributed emerging gene family. Because theta is thought to be the most ancient evolutionary GST class, MIF proteins may have diverged early in evolution but retained a glutathione-binding domain.
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