Expanding our understanding of immunoglobulin, T-cell antigen receptor, and novel immune-type receptor genes: a subset of the immunoglobulin gene superfamily
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The immunoglobulin superfamily (IgSF) is an extensively diversified multigene family whose members share a common structural feature, the Ig fold. Members of the Ig/T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) subset of the IgSF mediate antigen-specific recognition in adaptive immune responses. Antigen-binding receptors belonging to this subset are present in all species of jawed vertebrates. To explore whether there are additional structurally related but otherwise distinct members of this subset, we have developed a technique termed the short-primer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that targets structurally conserved short motifs in the Ig fold. Large-scale sequencing efforts and recent advances in information biotechnology, including "electronic PCR," provide additional computational means to implement similarly directed searches within databases. The use of these approaches has led to the discoveries of Ig/TCR homologues in a variety of phylogenetically diverse organisms, a diversified family of novel immune-type receptor genes, as well as a novel human IgSF member. The potential of random sequencing efforts and virtual screening of databases is described in the context of two novel genes in bony fish. The various methodologies that are discussed and the examples shown provide means for further investigating, and/or elucidating novel, IgSF receptors as well as components of pathways that are involved in immune responses in both traditional and nontraditional model systems.
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