The genome of the cichlid (teleost) fish Oreochromis niloticus contains a set of genes which encode group V C-type lectin proteins homologous to the mammalian NKG2/CD94 family of natural killer (NK) cell receptors. To determine the genomic organization of these killer cell-like receptor (KLR) genes, an O. niloticus BAC library was screened with a cDNA probe derived previously from an expressed sequence tag of the related cichlid species Paralabidochromis chilotes. Four distinct KLR-bearing BAC clones were analysed, three of which could be assembled into a contig. One of the clones was sequenced in its entirety, whereas the others were partially sequenced to identify the KLR loci borne by them. Altogether, 28 distinct KLR loci were identified, of which at least 26 occupy a single chromosomal region, the KLR complex. One half of the loci appear to be occupied by pseudogenes. Compared to the human NK cell receptor complex, the Oreochromis KLR complex is more compact and, apart from transposons, appears to contain only KLR loci. The gene density of the complex is one KLR locus per 18 kb of sequence. All the KLR loci constituting the complex are derived from a single most recent common ancestor, which is estimated to have existed 7.7 million years ago. The 180kb of the determined sequence is a mosaic of blocks of similar segments reflecting a complex history of duplications, deletions and rearrangements. The transposons found in the sequenced part belong to the TC1, Xena, CR1 and TX1 families.
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