The IgE gene in primates exhibits extraordinary evolutionary diversity
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Membrane-bound IgE (mIgE) on B lymphocytes is essential for IgE production. Earlier studies showed that the ε chain of mIgE (mε) on human B cells has a “long” isoform, with an extra “CεmX” domain of 52 amino acid (aa) residues between the CH4 domain and the membrane-anchor segment, as compared to the conventional “short” isoform. Because CεmX provides an antigenic site for targeting IgE-expressing B cells to down-regulate IgE production in patients with allergy, analysis of CεmX in various animals is of great interest. Hence, we analyzed the ε Ig gene, in particular, its membrane exon regions encoding the membrane anchor peptide segment and CεmX domain, of 26 species of the order Primates and 12 species of seven non-Primate orders using data obtained experimentally or retrieved from GenBank. Our analyses reveal the unexpected finding that the genes of three extant tarsier species do not contain the membrane exons for mIgE. Another striking finding is that early evolved Strepsirhini primates such as lemurs and lorises do not have gene segments for the long isoform, whereas New World monkeys such as marmosets and squirrel monkeys allow the transcription of only the long isoform. In Old World monkeys and apes, including humans, the ε gene allows the transcription of both isoforms. This work thus reveals the dramatic differences in the gene segment encoding the mε C terminal region among the four major primate lineages: the Strepsirhini primates, the tarsiers, New World monkeys, and Old World monkeys and apes/humans.