P40 is a cytokine that was originally identified in the mouse as a T cell growth factor, but whose spectrum of potential targets was recently shown to include mast cells as well as megakaryoblastic leukemic cells. Given these multiple activities, it was proposed that the protein be renamed IL-9. The analysis of P40 genomic clones reported here shows that the human and mouse P40 genes consist of 5 exons spread over approximately 4 kb of DNA and organized in a similar fashion in both species. The two genes exhibit a high degree of identity in the coding sequence and in the 5' untranslated regions, which contain, among other consensus motifs, a conserved sequence for the binding of AP-1. Expression of human P40 was studied in PBMC. Treatment of the cells with PMA and a calcium ionophore induced strong expression of a 0.7-kb P40 mRNA. No message was detected in unstimulated cells or in cells stimulated with LPS or Staphylococcus aureus, indicating that P40 expression is not constitutive and suggesting that the gene is not easily activated in B lymphocytes and in monocytes. By contrast, T cell mitogens such as PHA or anti-CD3 antibodies induced a substantial P40 expression that was further enhanced in the presence of PMA. Cell fractionation experiments indicated that, under these conditions, the protein is preferentially induced in CD4+ T cells. The induction of P40 by anti-CD3 antibodies suggests that P40 production is part of the normal T cell response to antigenic stimulation.

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