Two genes, designated Trsc-UAA and Trsc-UBA, which encode highly polymorphic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules in the shark Triakis scyllia were isolated. The identification of these genes indicates that the classical MHC class I was already established at the level of elasmobranchs during animal evolution. At the emergence of the MHC/T cell receptor recognition system, the number of genes for T cell receptors (TCR) must have been just one. In this brief review, the way in which a small number of TCR could have recognized MHC-oligopeptide complexes initially, based on recent progress in the phylogenetic analysis of the immune systems in primitive vertebrates, is discussed.
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