To facilitate molecular studies of antibody responses in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta), we cloned and sequenced germline segments from its largest and most diverse immunoglobulin heavy-chain gene family, V(H)3. Using a PCR-based approach, we characterized 29 sequences, 20 with open reading frames (ORFs) and 9 pseudogenes. The leader sequences, introns, exons, and recombination signal sequences of M. mulatta V(H)3 gene segments are not strictly identical to those of humans, but the mature coding regions demonstrate, on average, greater than 90% sequence similarity. Although the framework regions are more highly conserved, the complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) also show strong similarities, and their predicted three-dimensional structures resemble those of their human homologues. In one instance, homologous macaque and human CDR1 sequences were 100% identical at the nucleotide level, and some CDR2s shared nucleotide identity as high as 96.5%. However, some rhesus V(H)3 ORFs have unusual structural features, including atypical CDR lengths and uncommon amino acids at structurally crucial positions. The similarity of rhesus and human V(H)3 homologues reinforces the notion that humoral immunity in this nonhuman primate species is an appropriate system for modeling human antibody responses.
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