September 22, 2019  |  

Discovery of gorilla MHC-C expressing C1 ligand for KIR.

In comparison to humans and chimpanzees, gorillas show low diversity at MHC class I genes (Gogo), as reflected by an overall reduced level of allelic variation as well as the absence of a functionally important sequence motif that interacts with killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR). Here, we use recently generated large-scale genomic sequence data for a reassessment of allelic diversity at Gogo-C, the gorilla orthologue of HLA-C. Through the combination of long-range amplifications and long-read sequencing technology, we obtained, among the 35 gorillas reanalyzed, three novel full-length genomic sequences including a coding region sequence that has not been previously described. The newly identified Gogo-C*03:01 allele has a divergent recombinant structure that sets it apart from other Gogo-C alleles. Domain-by-domain phylogenetic analysis shows that Gogo-C*03:01 has segments in common with Gogo-B*07, the additional B-like gene that is present on some gorilla MHC haplotypes. Identified in ~ 50% of the gorillas analyzed, the Gogo-C*03:01 allele exclusively encodes the C1 epitope among Gogo-C allotypes, indicating its important function in controlling natural killer cell (NK cell) responses via KIR. We further explored the hypothesis whether gorillas experienced a selective sweep which may have resulted in a general reduction of the gorilla MHC class I repertoire. Our results provide little support for a selective sweep but rather suggest that the overall low Gogo class I diversity can be best explained by drastic demographic changes gorillas experienced in the ancient and recent past.


September 22, 2019  |  

The unique evolution of the pig LRC, a single KIR but expansion of LILR and a novel Ig receptor family.

The leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) encodes numerous immunoglobulin (Ig)-like receptors involved in innate immunity. These include the killer-cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) and the leukocyte Ig-like receptors (LILR) which can be polymorphic and vary greatly in number between species. Using the recent long-read genome assembly, Sscrofa11.1, we have characterized the porcine LRC on chromosome 6. We identified a ~?197-kb region containing numerous LILR genes that were missing in previous assemblies. Out of 17 such LILR genes and fragments, six encode functional proteins, of which three are inhibitory and three are activating, while the majority of pseudogenes had the potential to encode activating receptors. Elsewhere in the LRC, between FCAR and GP6, we identified a novel gene that encodes two Ig-like domains and a long inhibitory intracellular tail. Comparison with two other porcine assemblies revealed a second, nearly identical, non-functional gene encoding a short intracellular tail with ambiguous function. These novel genes were found in a diverse range of mammalian species, including a pseudogene in humans, and typically consist of a single long-tailed receptor and a variable number of short-tailed receptors. Using porcine transcriptome data, both the novel inhibitory gene and the LILR were highly expressed in peripheral blood, while the single KIR gene, KIR2DL1, was either very poorly expressed or not at all. These observations are a prerequisite for improved understanding of immune cell functions in the pig and other species.


July 19, 2019  |  

Revealing complete complex KIR haplotypes phased by long-read sequencing technology

The killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) region of human chromosome 19 contains up to 16 genes for natural killer (NK) cell receptors that recognize human leukocyte antigen (HLA)/peptide complexes and other ligands. The KIR proteins fulfill functional roles in infections, pregnancy, autoimmune diseases and transplantation. However, their characterization remains a constant challenge. Not only are the genes highly homologous due to their recent evolution by tandem duplications, but the region is structurally dynamic due to frequent transposon-mediated recombination. A sequencing approach that precisely captures the complexity of KIR haplotypes for functional annotation is desirable. We present a unique approach to haplotype the KIR loci using single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing. Using this method, we have—for the first time—comprehensively sequenced and phased sixteen KIR haplotypes from eight individuals without imputation. The information revealed four novel haplotype structures, a novel gene-fusion allele, novel and confirmed insertion/deletion events, a homozygous individual, and overall diversity for the structural haplotypes and their alleles. These KIR haplotypes augment our existing knowledge by providing high-quality references, evolutionary informers, and source material for imputation. The haplotype sequences and gene annotations provide alternative loci for the KIR region in the human genome reference GrCh38.p8.


July 7, 2019  |  

Two orangutan species have evolved different KIR alleles and haplotypes.

The immune and reproductive functions of human NK cells are regulated by interactions of the C1 and C2 epitopes of HLA-C with C1-specific and C2-specific lineage III killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR). This rapidly evolving and diverse system of ligands and receptors is restricted to humans and great apes. In this context, the orangutan has particular relevance because it represents an evolutionary intermediate, one having the C1 epitope and corresponding KIR but lacking the C2 epitope. Through a combination of direct sequencing, KIR genotyping, and data mining from the Great Ape Genome Project, we characterized the KIR alleles and haplotypes for panels of 10 Bornean orangutans and 19 Sumatran orangutans. The orangutan KIR haplotypes have between 5 and 10 KIR genes. The seven orangutan lineage III KIR genes all locate to the centromeric region of the KIR locus, whereas their human counterparts also populate the telomeric region. One lineage III KIR gene is Bornean specific, one is Sumatran specific, and five are shared. Of 12 KIR gene-content haplotypes, 5 are Bornean specific, 5 are Sumatran specific, and 2 are shared. The haplotypes have different combinations of genes encoding activating and inhibitory C1 receptors that can be of higher or lower affinity. All haplotypes encode an inhibitory C1 receptor, but only some haplotypes encode an activating C1 receptor. Of 130 KIR alleles, 55 are Bornean specific, 65 are Sumatran specific, and 10 are shared. Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


July 7, 2019  |  

Allele-level KIR genotyping of more than a million samples: Workflow, algorithm, and observations.

The killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) genes regulate natural killer cell activity, influencing predisposition to immune mediated disease, and affecting hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) outcome. Owing to the complexity of the KIR locus, with extensive gene copy number variation (CNV) and allelic diversity, high-resolution characterization of KIR has so far been applied only to relatively small cohorts. Here, we present a comprehensive high-throughput KIR genotyping approach based on next generation sequencing. Through PCR amplification of specific exons, our approach delivers both copy numbers of the individual genes and allelic information for every KIR gene. Ten-fold replicate analysis of a set of 190 samples revealed a precision of 99.9%. Genotyping of an independent set of 360 samples resulted in an accuracy of more than 99% taking into account consistent copy number prediction. We applied the workflow to genotype 1.8 million stem cell donor registry samples. We report on the observed KIR allele diversity and relative abundance of alleles based on a subset of more than 300,000 samples. Furthermore, we identified more than 2,000 previously unreported KIR variants repeatedly in independent samples, underscoring the large diversity of the KIR region that awaits discovery. This cost-efficient high-resolution KIR genotyping approach is now applied to samples of volunteers registering as potential donors for HSCT. This will facilitate the utilization of KIR as additional selection criterion to improve unrelated donor stem cell transplantation outcome. In addition, the approach may serve studies requiring high-resolution KIR genotyping, like population genetics and disease association studies.


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