Factor B (Bf), a constituent of the alternative pathway of complement activation, is encoded by a single gene that is located within the MHC. In murine kidney and intestine, two Bf transcripts (Bf short and Bf long), generated from distinct transcriptional initiation sites, are expressed in approximately equal amounts. In the liver, > 95% of Bf mRNA is the short transcript. To ascertain the biologic consequences of this tissue-specific mRNA polymorphism, we quantitated the effect of structural differences between the two transcripts on net Bf protein synthesis. Cell-free translation of Bf mRNA in vitro revealed that the rate of translation of Bf short is about twice that of Bf long. The 5' extension of Bf long includes four short open reading frames upstream of the authentic translational initiation codons. Mutation of all four upstream AUGs generates a Bf long transcript with a translational rate about equal to that of Bf short. This effect was primarily accounted for by mutation of the second AUG from the 5' end. Similar studies of Bf expression in vivo showed an approximately twofold difference in translational rate between Bf long and the transcript mutated at the upstream AUGs. Because systemic and local inflammation in kidney alters the ratio of Bf long and short, net production of complement protein Bf in extrahepatic tissues is regulated by both transcriptional and translational control mechanisms.

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