The obese (ob) gene, the mutation of which results in severe hereditary obesity and diabetes in mice, has recently been isolated through positional cloning. In this study, we isolated a full-length human ob complementary DNA (cDNA) clone and examined the tissue distribution of ob gene expression in humans. The nucleotide sequences of the human ob cDNA coding region were 83% identical to those of the mouse and rat ob cDNA coding regions. Analysis of the deduced amino acid sequences revealed that the human ob protein is a 166–amino acid polypeptide with a putative signal sequence and is 84 and 83% homologous to the mouse and rat ob proteins, respectively. Northern blot analysis using the cloned human ob cDNA fragment as a probe identified a single messenger RNA (mRNA) species 4.5 kb in size found abundantly in the adipose tissues obtained from the subcutaneous, omental, retroperitoneal, perilymphatic, and mesenteric fat pads. However, no significant amount of ob mRNA was present in the brain, heart, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, small intestine, kidney, prostate, testis, colon, or skeletal muscle. The ob mRNA level in the adipose tissue varied from region to region even in the same individual. Furthermore, in the human adipose tissue, ob gene expression occurred in mature adipocytes rather than in stromal-vascular cells. This study is the first report of the elucidation of ob gene expression in human tissues, thereby leading to better understanding of the physiological and clinical implications of the ob gene.

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