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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Sep 29;95(20):11804-9.

Structural analysis of the nurse shark (new) antigen receptor (NAR): molecular convergence of NAR and unusual mammalian immunoglobulins.

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4370, USA.


We recently have identified an antigen receptor in sharks called NAR (new or nurse shark antigen receptor) that is secreted by splenocytes but does not associate with Ig light (L) chains. The NAR variable (V) region undergoes high levels of somatic mutation and is equally divergent from both Ig and T cell receptors (TCR). Here we show by electron microscopy that NAR V regions, unlike those of conventional Ig and TCR, do not form dimers but rather are independent, flexible domains. This unusual feature is analogous to bona fide camelid IgG in which modifications of Ig heavy chain V (VH) sequences prevent dimer formation with L chains. NAR also displays a uniquely flexible constant (C) region. Sequence analysis and modeling show that there are only two types of expressed NAR genes, each having different combinations of noncanonical cysteine (Cys) residues in the V domains that likely form disulfide bonds to stabilize the single antigen-recognition unit. In one NAR class, rearrangement events result in mature genes encoding an even number of Cys (two or four) in complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3), which is analogous to Cys codon expression in an unusual human diversity (D) segment family. The NAR CDR3 Cys generally are encoded by preferred reading frames of rearranging D segments, providing a clear design for use of preferred reading frame in antigen receptor D regions. These unusual characteristics shared by NAR and unconventional mammalian Ig are most likely the result of convergent evolution at the molecular level.

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