Microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) is essential for the assembly of triglyceride-rich apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins. Previous studies in our laboratory identified a novel splice variant of MTP in mice that we named MTP-B. MTP-B has a unique first exon (1B) located 2.7 kB upstream of the first exon (1A) for canonical MTP (MTP-A). The two mature isoforms, though nearly identical in sequence and function, have different tissue expression patterns. In this study we report the identification of a second MTP splice variant (MTP-C), which contains both exons 1B and 1A. MTP-C is expressed in all the tissues we tested. In cells transfected with MTP-C, protein expression was less than 15% of that found when the cells were transfected with MTP-A or MTP-B. In silico analysis of the 5′-UTR of MTP-C revealed seven ATGs upstream of the start site for MTP-A, which is the only viable start site in frame with the main coding sequence. One of those ATGs was located in the 5′-UTR for MTP-A. We generated reporter constructs in which the 5′-UTRs of MTP-A or MTP-C were inserted between an SV40 promoter and the coding sequence of the luciferase gene and transfected these constructs into HEK 293 cells. Luciferase activity was significantly reduced by the MTP-C 5′-UTR, but not by the MTP-A 5′-UTR. We conclude that alternative splicing plays a key role in regulating MTP expression by introducing unique 5′-UTRs, which contain elements that alter translation efficiency, enabling the cell to optimize MTP levels and activity.
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