Characterization of two whey protein genes in the Australian dasyurid marsupial, the stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura) Academic Article uri icon


  • We report the first isolation and sequencing of genomic BAC clones containing the marsupial milk protein genes Whey Acidic Protein (WAP) and Early Lactation Protein (ELP). The stripe-faced dunnart WAPgene sequence contained five exons, the middle three of which code for the WAPmotifs and four disulphide core domains which characterize WAP. The dunnart ELPgene sequence contained three exons encoding a protein with a Kunitz motif common to serine protease inhibitors. Fluorescence in situ hybridization located the WAPgene to chromosome 1p in the stripe-faced dunnart, and the ELPgene to 2q. Northern blot analysis of lactating mammary tissue of the closely related fat-tailed dunnart has shown asynchronous expression of these milk protein genes. ELPwas expressed at only the earlier phase of lactation and WAPonly at the later phase of lactation, in contrast to beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) and alpha-lactalbumin (ALA) genes, which were expressed in both phases of lactation. This asynchronous expression during the lactation cycle in the fat-tailed dunnart is similar to other marsupials and it probably represents a pattern that is ancestral to Australian marsupials.

publication date

  • 2006