The Kirsten (Ki) and Harvey (Ha) strains of murine sarcoma virus encode a 21,000-dalton protein (p21 ras) which is the product of the transforming gene of these viruses. Normal cells express low levels of p21 ras encoded by cellular genes (Ki-ras and Ha-ras) homologous to the Ki and Ha murine sarcoma virus transformation genes. A bone marrow-derived mouse cell line, 416B, has been shown to express unusually high levels of p21 ras. In this manuscript, we investigated the molecular biology of p21 ras gene expression in 416B and other normal mouse cells. We identified four distinct polyadenylated and polysome-associated RNAs, two related to Ki-ras and two to Ha-ras. The levels in 416B cells of the two Ki-ras RNAs, sized 5.2 and 2.0 kilobases, were both elevated approximately 25-fold over levels found in normal mouse cells; there was no corresponding change in 416B cells in the levels of the two Ha-ras RNAs. We partially purified the two Ki-ras mRNAs and separated them by velocity sedimentation in sucrose density gradients. Both the 5.2- and 2.0-kilobase mRNAs could be translated in vitro into p21 ras. These results show that a cellular onc protein can be translated from two distinct cellular mRNA species.
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