To increase diversity of enzymes and proteins, cells mix and match exonic and intronic regions retained in mature mRNAs by alternative splicing. An estimated 94% of all multi-exon genes express one or more alternatively spliced transcripts generating proteins with similar or modified functions. Cyclooxygenase is a signaling enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of diverse bioactive lipids termed prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are involved in myriad physiological and pathopysiological processes including vasoregulation, stomach mucosal maintenance, parturition, pain, fever, inflammation, neoplasia and angiogenesis and are inhibited by aspirin-like drugs known as NSAIDs. In 2002 an alternatively spliced, intron-1 retaining variant of COX-1 was cloned from canine brain tissue. This new variant, termed COX-3 or COX-1b, is an enzymatically active prostaglandin synthase expressed at relatively high levels in a tissue and cell type dependant manner in all species examined. In humans and most rodent species intron-1 is 94 and 98 nucleotides long respectively. Retention of the intron in these species introduces a frameshift and is predicted to result in translation of a very small 8-16kD protein with little similarity to either 72kD COX-1 or COX-2, calling into question the role of this variant. In this dissertation, I present my results from cloning and ectopically expressing a complete and accurate COX-3 cDNA from both rat and human. I confirmed that COX-3 mRNA encodes multiple large molecular weight cyclooxygenase-like proteins in the same reading frame as COX-1. Translation of these proteins relies on several recoding mechanisms including cap-independent translation initiation, alternative start site selection, and ribosomal frameshifting. Using siRNA and Western blotting I have identified some of these proteins in tissues and cells. Two COX-3 encoded proteins are active prostaglandin synthase enzymes with activities similar to COX-1 and represent novel targets of NSAIDs. Other COX-3 proteins have unknown function, but their size and cellular location suggest potential roles as diverse as cytosolic enzymes and nuclear factors.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





Cyclooxygenase, COX-3, Prostaglandins, Alternative Splicing, Ribosomal frameshift, Cap-independent translation

Included in

Chemistry Commons