Heavy chain-only antibody genes in fish evolved to generate unique CDR3 repertoire

Kamala Anumukonda, Malcolm Francis, Peter Currie, Frank Tulenko, Ellen Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In addition to conventional immunoglobulin, camelids and cartilaginous fish express a special class of antibody that consists only of heavy (H) chain (HCAbs). In the holocephalan elephantfish, there are two HCAb classes, one of which has evolved surprising features. The H-chain genes in cartilaginous fish are organized as 20–200 minigenes, or clusters, each consisting of VH, 1–3 DH, JH gene segments with one set of constant region exons. We report that HHC2 (holocephalan H-chain antibody 2) evolved from IgM H-chain clusters, but its DH gene segments have diverged considerably. The three DH in HHC2 clusters are A-rich, so that one to three potential reading frames for each DH encode lysine and arginine. All three are incorporated into the rearranged VDJ, ensuring that the ligand-binding site carries multiple basic residues, as cDNA sequences demonstrate. The electropositive character in HHC2 CDR3 is accompanied by a paucity of aromatic amino acids, the latter feature at variance to the established, interactive role of tyrosine not only in ligand-binding but generally at interfaces of protein complexes. The selection for these divergent HHC2 features challenges currently accepted ideas on what determines antibody reactivity and molecular recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-260
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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