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EMBO J. 1988 Nov;7(11):3413-22.

Diverse organization of immunoglobulin VH gene loci in a primitive vertebrate.

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  • 1Showa University Research Institute, St Petersburg, FL 33716.


The immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy chain variable (VH) gene family of Heterodontus francisci (horned shark), a phylogenetically distant vertebrate, is unique in that VH, diversity (DH), joining (JH) and constant region (CH) gene segments are linked closely, in multiple individual clusters. The V regions of 12 genomic (liver and gonad) DNA clones have been sequenced completely and three organization patterns are evident: (i) VH-D1-D2-JH-CH with unique 12/22 and 12/12 spacers in the respective D recombination signal sequences (RSSs); VH and JH segments have 23 nucleotide (nt) spacers, (ii) VHDH-JH-CH, an unusual germline configuration with joined VH and DH segments and (iii) VHDHJH-CH, with all segmental elements being joined. The latter two configurations do not appear to be pseudogenes. Another VH-D1-D2-JH-CH gene possesses a D1 segment that is flanked by RSSs with 12 nt spacers and a D2 segment with 22/12 spacers. Based on the comparison of spleen, VH+ cDNA sequences to a germline consensus, it is evident that both DH segments as well as junctional and N-type diversity account for Ig variability. In this early vertebrate, the Ig genes share unique properties with higher vertebrate T-cell receptor as well as with Ig and may reflect the structure of a common ancestral antigen binding receptor gene.

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