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Annu Rev Immunol. 2012;30:203-20. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-020711-075038. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

VLR-based adaptive immunity.

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1
Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, 79108 Freiburg, Germany. boehm@immunbio.mpg.de

Abstract

Lampreys and hagfish are primitive jawless vertebrates capable of mounting specific immune responses. Lampreys possess different types of lymphocytes, akin to T and B cells of jawed vertebrates, that clonally express somatically diversified antigen receptors termed variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs), which are composed of tandem arrays of leucine-rich repeats. The VLRs appear to be diversified by a gene conversion mechanism involving lineage-specific cytosine deaminases. VLRA is expressed on the surface of T-like lymphocytes; B-like lymphocytes express and secrete VLRB as a multivalent protein. VLRC is expressed by a distinct lymphocyte lineage. VLRA-expressing cells appear to develop in a thymus-like tissue at the tip of gill filaments, and VLRB-expressing cells develop in hematopoietic tissues. Reciprocal expression patterns of evolutionarily conserved interleukins and chemokines possibly underlie cell-cell interactions during an immune response. The discovery of VLRs in agnathans illuminates the origins of adaptive immunity in early vertebrates.

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