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J Immunol. 2010 Jun 15;184(12):6950-60. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902774. Epub 2010 May 19.

Evolutionarily conserved TCR binding sites, identification of T cells in primary lymphoid tissues, and surprising trans-rearrangements in nurse shark.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Cartilaginous fish are the oldest animals that generate RAG-based Ag receptor diversity. We have analyzed the genes and expressed transcripts of the four TCR chains for the first time in a cartilaginous fish, the nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). Northern blotting found TCR mRNA expression predominantly in lymphoid and mucosal tissues. Southern blotting suggested translocon-type loci encoding all four chains. Based on diversity of V and J segments, the expressed combinatorial diversity for gamma is similar to that of human, alpha and beta may be slightly lower, and delta diversity is the highest of any organism studied to date. Nurse shark TCRdelta have long CDR3 loops compared with the other three chains, creating binding site topologies comparable to those of mammalian TCR in basic paratope structure; additionally, nurse shark TCRdelta CDR3 are more similar to IgH CDR3 in length and heterogeneity than to other TCR chains. Most interestingly, several cDNAs were isolated that contained IgM or IgW V segments rearranged to other gene segments of TCRdelta and alpha. Finally, in situ hybridization experiments demonstrate a conservation of both alpha/beta and gamma/delta T cell localization in the thymus across 450 million years of vertebrate evolution, with gamma/delta TCR expression especially high in the subcapsular region. Collectively, these data make the first cellular identification of TCR-expressing lymphocytes in a cartilaginous fish.

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