Interleukins 4 and 13 (IL-4 and IL-13) are related cytokines important for Th2 immune responses and encoded by adjacent genes on human chromosome 5. Efforts were made previously to detect these genes in fish, but research was hampered by a lack of sequence conservation. A Tetraodon nigrovirides (green spotted pufferfish) gene was annotated as IL-4 by Li et al. (Mol Immunol, 44:2078-2086, 2007), but this annotation was not well substantiated. However, the present study concludes that the reported pufferfish gene belongs to the IL-4/13 lineage indeed, while also describing an additional IL-4/13 copy in a paralogous genomic region. Our analyses of IL-4/13 loci in fish describe (1) genomic region history, (2) characteristic intron-exon organization, (3) deduced IL-4/13 molecules for several teleost fish species, (4) IL-4/13 lineage-specific protein motifs including a cysteine pair (pair 1), and (5) computer software predictions of a type I cytokine fold. Teleost IL-4/13 molecules have an additional cysteine pair (pair 2) or remnants thereof, which is absent in mammalian IL-4 and IL-13. We were unable to determine if the teleost IL-4/13 genes are orthologous to either IL-4 or IL-13, or if these mammalian genes separated later in evolution.
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