The murine fourth component of complement (C4) and sex-limited protein (Slp) are two closely related serum proteins whose structural genes map to the S region of H-2. Serum C4 levels vary as much as 20-fold between C4 high (C4H) and C4 low (C4L) strains, and Slp expression can be null (SlpO), limited to male mice of a subset of C4H strains (Slp+), or "constitutive" (SlpC), in which female as well as male mice express Slp. In this study, we compare, by genomic Southern blot analysis, the C4 and Slp genes from eight congenic inbred mouse strains representative of three distinct phenotypes: C4H, Slp+ (two strains), C4H, SlpO (two strains), C4H, SlpC (three strains), and C4L, SlpO (one strain). By using cDNA probes that recognize both C4 and Slp genes, and are derived from the extreme 5' and 3' ends of the mRNA as well as internal coding sequences, we find no evidence to suggest that strain-specific variations in the expression of C4 and Slp are due to gross deletions of major portions of the structural genes. In most cases, two distinct C4/Slp genes are detected; hybridization with C4- and Slp-specific probes indicate that one of these is C4 and the other is Slp. The three SlpC strains are exceptional: they carry at least four C4/Slp genes; one of these hybridizes to the C4-specific probe whereas the remaining genes hybridize to the Slp-specific probe. Hence, multiple duplication of a gene containing Slp sequences has occurred in certain strains of mice, and this is accompanied by constitutive expression of the Slp protein.

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