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Immunol Rev. 2001 Jun;181:39-51.

Genesis of the ILT/LIR/MIR clusters within the human leukocyte receptor complex.

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Institut für Immungenetik, Universitätsklinikum Charité, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany.


The human leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) contains at least 26 genes which belong to the immunoglobulin superfamily The genes include two clusters of immunoglobulin-like transcript (ILT)/leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor (LIR)/monocyte-macrophage inhibitory receptor (MIR) loci, a cluster of killer cell inhibitory receptor (KIR) genes, two leukocyte-associated immunoglobulin-like receptor genes, as well as the Fc receptor for IgA and the natural cytotoxicity receptor I loci. It has already been postulated that these genes have evolved by multiple duplications, while the two ILT clusters are likely to have been generated by the inverse duplication of an ancient ILT cluster. To shed more light on the possible origin of the loci within the LRC, we have now investigated the presence of KIR and ILT loci in a variety of vertebrates by hybridizations and compared the genomic sequences of all ILT genes. Our results lead to the following conclusions: 1) the origin of KIR genes dates back to about 100 million years, but only primate and human KIRs are closely related; 2) in contrast, genes which are detectable with human ILT cDNAs are already found in birds, suggesting their presence already about 300 million years ago. Using the sequence data produced by the human genome project, we have developed a hypothesis that reconstructs the genesis of the two human ILT clusters in detail which will help to understand the function of the LRC.

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