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BACKGROUND: Thrombin is a serine protease that elicits a variety of cellular responses. Molecular cloning of a thrombin receptor revealed a G protein-coupled receptor that is activated by a novel proteolytic mechanism. Recently, a second protease-activated receptor was discovered and dubbed PAR2. PAR2 is highly related to the thrombin receptor by sequence and, like the thrombin receptor, is activated by cleavage of its amino terminal exodomain. Also like the thrombin receptor, PAR2 can be activated by the hexapeptide corresponding to its tethered ligand sequence independent of receptor cleavage. Thus, functionally, the thrombin receptor and PAR2 constitute a fledgling receptor family that shares a novel proteolytic activation mechanism. To further explore the relatedness of the two known protease-activated receptors and to examine the possibility that a protease-activated gene cluster might exist, we have compared the structure and chromosomal locations of the thrombin receptor and PAR2 genes. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The genomic structures of the two protease-activated receptor genes were determined by analysis of lambda phage, P1 bacteriophage, and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) genomic clones. Chromosomal location was determined with fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) on metaphase chromosomes, and the relative distance separating the two genes was evaluated both by means of two-color FISH and analysis of YACs and BACs containing both genes. RESULTS: Analysis of genomic clones revealed that the two protease-activated receptor genes share a two-exon genomic structure in which the first exon encodes 5'-untranslated sequence and signal peptide, and the second exon encodes the mature receptor protein and 3'-untranslated sequence. The two receptor genes also share a common locus with the two human genes located at 5q13 and the two mouse genes at 13D2, a syntenic region of the mouse genome. These techniques also suggest that the physical distance separating these two genes is less than 100 kb. CONCLUSIONS: The fact that the thrombin receptor and PAR2 genes share an identical structure and are located within approximately 100 kb of each other in the genome demonstrates that these genes arose from a gene duplication event. These results define a new protease-activated receptor gene cluster in which new family members may be found.