Conserved organization of the ILT/LIR gene family within the polymorphic human leukocyte receptor complex
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The human leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) at Chromosome 19q13.4 encodes Ig superfamily proteins which regulate the function of various hematopoietic cell types. We investigated characteristics of the Ig-like transcript (ILT)/leukocyte Ig-like receptor (LIR) group of LRC genes in comparison with the other major LRC loci encoding the killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs). In direct contrast to KIR genes, the ILT/LIR loci of ethnically diverse individuals did not display haplotypic variations in gene number. Investigation of gene expression identified novel cDNA sequences related to the ILT2/LIR1, ILT4/LIR2, ILT3/LIR5, and ILT7 loci, while phylogenetic analysis revealed two distinct lineages of ILT/LIR genes. These two lineages differ in both the nature and extent of their sequence polymorphism. The presence of certain transcription factor-related motifs in the 5′ untranslated region of ILT/LIR cDNAs correlates with the specific cell types in which particular ILT/LIR genes are expressed. Although extensive gene duplications and conversion events have apparently forged the LRC, our results indicate striking conservation in the organization of the ILT/LIR genes when compared with the related and closely linked KIR genes. This suggests the evolutionary maintenance of a significant function consistent with the cellular distribution of the ILT/LIR proteins.
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