[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Post-transcriptional mechanisms including differential splicing expand the protein repertoire beyond that provided by the one gene-one protein model. Trans-splicing has been observed in mammalian systems but is low level (sometimes referred to as noise), and a contribution to hybrid protein expression is unclear. In the study of rat sperm tail proteins a cDNA, called 1038, was isolated representing a hybrid mRNA derived in part from the ornithine decarboxylase antizyme 3 (Oaz3) gene located on rat chromosome 2 fused to sequences encoded by a novel gene on chromosome 4. Cytoplasmic Oaz3 mRNA is completely testis specific. However, in several tissues Oaz3 is transcribed and contributes to hybrid 1038 mRNA synthesis, without concurrent Oaz3 mRNA synthesis. 1038 mRNA directs synthesis of a hybrid 14-kDa protein, part chromosome 2- and part chromosome 4-derived as shown in vitro and in transfected cells. Antisera that recognize a chromosome 4-encoded C-terminal peptide confirm the hybrid character of endogenous 14-kDa protein and its presence in sperm tail structures and 1038-positive tissue. Our data suggest that the testis-specific OAZ3 gene may be an example of a mammalian gene that in several tissues is transcribed to contribute to a hybrid mRNA and protein. This finding expands the repertoire of known mechanisms available to cells to generate proteome diversity.