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Mol Biol Evol. 1998 Jan;15(1):50-60.

Evolution of immunoglobulin kappa chain variable region genes in vertebrates.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


The major source of immunoglobulin diversity is variation in DNA sequence among multiple copies of variable region (V) genes of the heavy- and light-chain multigene families. In order to clarify the evolutionary pattern of the multigene family of immunoglobulin light kappa chain V region (V kappa) genes, phylogenetic analyses of V kappa genes from humans and other vertebrate species were conducted. The results obtained indicate that the V kappa genes so far sequenced can be grouped into three major monophyletic clusters, the cartilaginous fish, bony fish and amphibian, and mammalian clusters, and that the cartilaginous fish cluster first separated from the rest of the V kappa genes and then the remaining two clusters diverged. The mammalian V kappa genes can further be divided into 10 V kappa groups, 7 of which are present in the human genome. Human and mouse V kappa genes from different V kappa groups are intermingled rather than clustered on the chromosome, and there are a large number of pseudogenes scattered on the chromosome. This indicates that the chromosomal locations of V kappa genes have been shuffled many times by gene duplication, deletion, and transposition in the evolutionary process and that many genes have become nonfunctional during this process. This mode of evolution is consistent with the model of birth-and-death evolution rather than with the model of concerted evolution. An analysis of duplicate V kappa functional genes and pseudogenes in the human genome has indicated that pseudogenes evolve faster than functional genes but that the rate of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution in the complementarity-determining regions of V kappa genes has been enhanced by positive Darwinian selection.

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