To enable preclinical studies on homologous interleukin-3 (IL-3) in primate species, we isolated the gene encoding Rhesus monkey IL-3 (RhIL- 3). The nucleotide sequence of the RhIL-3 gene displayed 92.9% homology with that of the human IL-3 (hIL-3) gene. The isolated RhIL-3 gene encodes a 143-amino acid (aa) precursor polypeptide, nine C-terminal residues shorter than the human protein. Protein homology was found to be 89.5% for the signal peptide (19 aa) and 80.5% for the mature protein (124 aa). Comparison of the human and RhIL-3 coding sequences showed that the majority of substitutions had occurred at amino acid replacement sites indicating a rapid evolution of the IL-3 protein. After expression of a genomic fragment in COS cells, RhIL-3 cDNA was constructed, which enabled large-scale production of the RhIL-3 polypeptide, RhIL-3 produced by Bacillus licheniformis and purified to homogeneity appeared to be approximately 100-fold more effective in stimulating Rhesus monkey hematopoietic progenitors than hIL-3, whereas RhIL-3 and hIL-3 showed comparable stimulatory activity on normal as well as malignant human hematopoietic cells. Thus, the rapid evolution of hIL-3 has resulted in a unidirectional species specificity, which most likely restricts the in vivo effects of hIL-3 in Macaca species.

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