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J Immunol. 2001 Apr 1;166(7):4380-90.

Diversity of the killer cell Ig-like receptors of rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Division of Viral Pathogenesis, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Because the killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs) have only been characterized in humans and chimpanzees, we do not have a full understanding of their evolutionary history. Therefore, cDNAs encoding the KIR molecules of five rhesus monkeys were characterized, and were found to differ from the KIR molecules identified in humans and chimpanzees. Whereas only one KIR2DL4 molecule is detected in humans and chimpanzees, two distinct KIR2DL4 homologues were identified in the monkeys. Although the two human KIR3DL molecules are limited in their polymorphism, the KIR3DL homologues in the monkeys were highly polymorphic. Up to five KIR3DL homologues were identified in each monkey that was studied, and eleven distinct KIR3DL molecules were detected in the five rhesus monkeys. Two novel families of KIR molecules were identified in the rhesus monkeys, KIR3DH and KIR1D. The KIR3DH molecules have three Ig domains, transmembrane domains homologous to KIR2DL4 molecules that contain an arginine, and short cytoplasmic domains. With these features, the KIR3DH molecules resemble the activating forms of the human KIR molecules. The KIR1D molecule encodes only one complete Ig domain before a frame-shift in the second Ig domain occurs, leading to early termination of the molecule. Multiple splice variants of KIR1D exist that encode at least one Ig domain, as well as transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains. The extensive diversity of the rhesus monkey KIR3DL homologues and the novel KIR3DH and KIR1D molecules suggests that the KIR family of molecules has evolved rapidly during the evolution of primates.

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