The presence of the lpr/lpr genotype on a number of murine genetic backgrounds results in a systemic lupus erythematosus-like disease and lymphadenopathy. The T lymphocytes of these mice exhibit a variety of abnormalities; most pertinent to the present report is an abnormally high level of c-myb proto-oncogene mRNA. Since the c-myb protein is presumably the effector molecule that affects cellular functions, it is important to determine whether increased levels of this c-myb protein are produced. With the use of immunoprecipitation with an anti-v-myb reagent, we found high levels of c-myb protein in the lymph nodes of lpr mice. Detailed analysis showed that the c-myb protein is primarily expressed by an abnormal T lymphocyte population that does not express the mature T cell markers, L3T4 and Lyt-2. Analysis by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis showed that the c-myb proteins from normal thymocytes and from these L3T4-, Lyt-2-T cells are indistinguishable. DNA analysis with Southern hybridizations showed the lack of amplification, insertions, deletions, and rearrangements, which is in accord with results from the protein studies. Most interestingly, the c-myb gene in lpr L3T4-, Lyt-2- T cells is hypomethylated compared with normal controls. This suggests that a regulatory mechanism, rather than the structural alteration of the gene, is responsible for elevated expression of c-myb in these L3T4-, Lyt-2- cells.

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