The mouse μ-opioid receptor gene, Oprm1, is recognized currently to contain 17 alternatively spliced exons that generate 24 splice variants encoding at least 11 morphine-binding isoforms of the receptor. Here, we identify three new MOR splice variants that contain a previously undescribed exon, exon 18, and provide evidence that they are expressed in two mouse strains. The transcripts containing the newly identified exon 18 encode two new putative μ-opioid receptor isoforms, MOR-1V and MOR-1W. In mouse Oprm1, exon 18 is located between the described exons 10 and 6. Exon 18 appears to be conserved in the rat genome between exons 4 and 7. A BLAST search of the non-redundant GenBank database suggests that human OPRM1 may also contain exon 18. Analysis of mouse brain mRNA by RT-PCR suggests that MOR-1Vii transcripts are expressed in all areas of the brain analyzed, whereas expression of MOR-1Vi transcripts was restricted to thalamus and striatum. MOR-1W transcripts are expressed most highly in the hypothalamus, thalamus and striatum. In summary, we have identified three brain expressed, alternatively spliced mouse MOR splice variants containing a novel exon and encoding new putative MOR isoforms, MOR-1V and MOR-1W.
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