The non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-encoded CD1 family ha recently emerged as a new antigen-presenting system that is distinct from either MHC class I or class II molecules. In the present study, we determined the genomic structure of the rat CD1 locus. It was extremely similar to mouse CD1 genes, especially to CD1D1. The 5' flanking region of the CD1 gene contained the binding motifs for two cytokine-inducible transcription factors, NF-IL2-A and NF-IL6. Some regulatory elements found in MHC class I genes (enhancer A, enhancer B, and the IFN response element) were absent. It is of interest that a tyrosine-based motif for endosomal localization found in the human CD1b cytoplasmic tail was encoded by a single short exon which was conserved in all CD1 molecules except for CD1a. Southern blot and direct sequencing analyses of inbred rat strains suggested very limited polymorphism in the 5' region where a hydrophobic ligand-binding groove is encoded; a single base substitution resulted in amino acid alteration of alanine (GCT) to valine (GTT) at codon 119. Comparison of the overall exon-intron organization of CD1 genes revealed that the length of the intron was also characteristic to each of the two classes of CD1 genes, classic CD1 and CD1D; such categorization has hitherto been made according to the sequence similarity of the coding region. This finding provides further support for the hypothesis that the two classes have different evolutionary histories. In contrast to the complete absence of the classic CD1 in rats and mice, the entire region of nonpolymorphic CD1D has been conserved through mammalian evolution. Similar functional properties of rodent CD1 and human CD1d are implied.
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