[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We report the identification and characterization of a novel cytokine-like gene family using structure-based methods to search for novel four-helix-bundle cytokines in genomics databases. There are four genes in this family, FAM3A, FAM3B, FAM3C, and FAM3D, each encoding a protein (224-235 amino acids) with a hydrophobic leader sequence. Northern analysis indicates that FAM3B is highly expressed in pancreas, FAM3D in placenta, and FAM3A and FAM3C in almost all tissues. Immunohistochemistry showed that FAM3A is expressed prominently in the vascular endothelium, particularly capillaries. We found that FAM3A and FAM3B protein were both localized to the islets of Langerhans of the endocrine pancreas. Recombinant FAM3B protein has delayed effects on beta-cell function, inhibiting basal insulin secretion from a beta-cell line in a dose-dependent manner.