The cloning and characterization of the mouse TRH receptor (TRH-R) gene revealed an untranslated exon (exon 1), a single intron and an upstream dinucleotide repeat sequence (d(TG)16.d(AG)21) in the 5′ untranslated region (UTR). The coding region was contained almost entirely on a second exon (exon 2), with the final amino acid and stop codon at the COOH terminus of the gene encoded by a third exon (exon 3) flanked by two introns. The 3′ UTR was contained on the remainder of exon 3 and on the final exon (exon 4). Exon 3 (228 bp) corresponds exactly to a 228 bp deletion that exists in the rat TRH-R cDNA, but not in the mouse cDNA.
The mouse TRH-R cDNA encodes a protein of 393 amino acids which is 96% homologous to the rat TRH-R protein of 412 amino acids, but is 19 amino acids shorter at its COOH terminus. The coding sequence for these 19 amino acids (plus 1 extra amino acid) does exist in the mouse TRH-R gene, but the sequence is encoded by exon 4, separated from the rest of the coding region by the stop codon and 223 bp of 3′ UTR on exon 3. Splicing of exon 3 in the mouse TRH-R gene would remove the last amino acid, the stop codon and the 223 bp of 3′ UTR, allowing transcription to continue into the 3′ UTR on exon 4, which encodes the 19 extra amino acids found in the rat cDNA. This would then result in an alternative 412 amino acid version of the mouse TRH-R protein, with 95% homology to the rat TRH-R. This study focused on the structural differences in the intracellular COOH-terminal tail of the receptor, which is known to be a functionally important domain in other members of the G protein-coupled receptor family. We have also recently characterized the human TRH-R cDNA, which revealed a third variant at the COOH terminus. Comparisons between mouse, rat and human TRH-Rs show that the amino acid sequences are virtually identical. However, significant differences between these species exist at the COOH terminus, with each TRH-R having a unique form of the COOH-terminal tail, beginning at exactly the same site and encoding 1, 20 and 6 amino acids in the mouse, rat and human respectively.