Initial observations have indicated similarities between bovine and human IGF-II production during development. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether cattle could provide an experimental model that would mimic the complex pattern of human IGF-II gene expression. Expression of bovine IGF-II gene during development was studied by RNA hybridization using various human IGF-II probes. In fetal tissues and in adult muscle, the bovine IGF-II gene was expressed as a family of eight transcripts ranging in size from 5·2 to 1·1 kb. In adult bovine liver, a major IGF-II transcript of 4·4 kb was expressed that could not be detected in any fetal or adult extra-hepatic tissue. During fetal life, quantitative IGF-II mRNA expression differed in liver and muscle, and the relative amounts of the different transcripts varied with the tissue of origin. These observations suggest that the regulation of bovine IGF-II gene expression is specific to the stage of development and the tissue concerned. Moreover its pattern is very similar to that in its human counterpart.
In order to identify a putative homology between human and bovine gene structures, bovine mRNAs were examined for cross-hybridization with various non-coding exons of the human gene. Cross-hybridization was detected with human untranslated exons 5 and 6, suggesting the presence of two distinct promoters similar to the human promoters P3 and P4. The 4·4 kb mRNA species expressed in adult bovine liver failed to hybridize to a probe for human exons 1 and 2, suggesting that the leader sequences of this transcript were different from those present in the human gene. Finally, results obtained with a probe containing the 3′ untranslated end of exon 9 suggested the presence of at least two polyadenylation sites in the bovine gene.
Although differences in IGF-II gene structures were found between cattle and man, the similarities in the pattern of gene expression between the two species suggest that cattle may be a useful model to investigate some developmental aspects of the expression of the human IGF-II gene.