The evolution of multiple isotypic IgM heavy chain genes in the shark

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Authors: Lee, V; Huang, JL; Lui, MF; Malecek, K; Ohta, Y; Mooers, A; Hsu, E
Year: 2008
Journal: Journal of Immunology 180: 7461-7470
Title: The evolution of multiple isotypic IgM heavy chain genes in the shark
Abstract: The IgM H chain gene organization of cartilaginous fishes consists of 15-200 miniloci, each with a few gene segments (V-H-D1-D2-J(H)) and one C gene. This is a gene arrangement ancestral to the complex IgH locus that exists in all other vertebrate classes. To understand the molecular evolution of this system, we studied the nurse shark, which has relatively fewer loci, and characterized the IgH isotypes for organization, functionality, and the somatic diversification mechanisms that act upon them. Gene numbers differ slightly between individuals (similar to 15), but five active IgM subclasses are always present. Each gene undergoes rearrangement that is strictly confined within the minilocus; in B cells there is no interaction between adjacent loci located; >= 120 kb apart. Without combinatorial events, the shark IgM H chain repertoire is based on junctional diversity and, subsequently, somatic hypermutation. We suggest that the significant contribution by junctional diversification reflects the selected novelty introduced by RAG in the early vertebrate ancestor, whereas combinatorial diversity coevolved with the complex translocon organization. Moreover, unlike other cartilaginous fishes, there are no germline-joined VDJ at any nurse shark mu locus, and we suggest that such genes, when functional, are species-specific and may have specialized roles. With an entire complement of IgM genes available for the first time, phylogenetic analyses were performed to examine how the multiple Ig loci evolved. We found that all domains changed at comparable rates, but V-H appears to be under strong positive selection for increased amino acid sequence diversity, and surprisingly, so does C mu 2.
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