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Nat Immunol. 2008 Mar;9(3):319-27. doi: 10.1038/ni1562. Epub 2008 Feb 3.

Antibody responses of variable lymphocyte receptors in the lamprey.

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Office of Fundamental Immunology Research, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, 35294, USA.


Lamprey and hagfish, the living representatives of jawless vertebrates, use genomic leucine-rich-repeat cassettes for the combinatorial assembly of diverse antigen receptor genes encoding variable lymphocyte receptors of two types: VLRA and VLRB. We describe here the VLRB-bearing lineage of lymphocytes in sea lamprey. These cells responded to repetitive carbohydrate or protein determinants on bacteria or mammalian cells with lymphoblastoid transformation, proliferation and differentiation into plasmacytes that secreted multimeric antigen-specific VLRB antibodies. Lacking a thymus and the ability to respond to soluble protein antigens, lampreys seem to have evolved a B cell-like system for adaptive humoral responses.

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