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Curr Biol. 2003 Mar 4;13(5):394-400.

Combinatorial coexpression of neural and immune multigene families in mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons.

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The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a chemosensory organ specialized in the detection of pheromones in higher vertebrates. In mouse and rat, two gene superfamilies, V1r and V2r vomeronasal receptor genes, are expressed in sensory neurons whose cell bodies are located in, respectively, the apical and basal layers of the VNO epithelium. Here, we report that neurons of the basal layer express another multigene family, termed H2-Mv, representing nonclassical class I genes of the major histocompatibility complex. The nine H2-Mv genes are expressed differentially in subsets of neurons. More than one H2-Mv gene can be expressed in an individual neuron. In situ hybridization with probes for H2-Mv and V2r genes reveals complex and nonrandom combinations of coexpression. While neural expression of Mhc class I molecules is increasingly being appreciated, the H2-Mv family is distinguished by variegated expression across seemingly similar neurons and coexpression with a distinct multigene family encoding neural receptors. Our findings suggest that basal vomeronasal sensory neurons may consist of multiple lineages or compartments, defined by particular combinations of V2r and H2-Mv gene expression.

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