Open Access Research article

Gene number determination and genetic polymorphism of the gamma delta T cell co-receptor WC1 genes

Chuang Chen1, Carolyn TA Herzig14, Leeson J Alexander2, John W Keele3, Tara G McDaneld3, Janice C Telfer1 and Cynthia L Baldwin1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 01003, USA

2 Department of Agriculture, Fort Keogh Livestock & Range Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Fort Keogh LARRL, Miles City, MT, 59301, USA

3 USDA-ARS, U. S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE, 68933, USA

4 Current Address: Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10032, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genetics 2012, 13:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-13-86

Published: 16 October 2012



WC1 co-receptors belong to the scavenger receptor cysteine-rich (SRCR) superfamily and are encoded by a multi-gene family. Expression of particular WC1 genes defines functional subpopulations of WC1+ γδ T cells. We have previously identified partial or complete genomic sequences for thirteen different WC1 genes through annotation of the bovine genome Btau_3.1 build. We also identified two WC1 cDNA sequences from other cattle that did not correspond to sequences in the Btau_3.1 build. Their absence in the Btau_3.1 build may have reflected gaps in the genome assembly or polymorphisms among animals. Since the response of γδ T cells to bacterial challenge is determined by WC1 gene expression, it was critical to understand whether individual cattle or breeds differ in the number of WC1 genes or display polymorphisms.


Real-time quantitative PCR using DNA from the animal whose genome was sequenced (“Dominette”) and sixteen other animals representing ten breeds of cattle, showed that the number of genes coding for WC1 co-receptors is thirteen. The complete coding sequences of those thirteen WC1 genes is presented, including the correction of an error in the WC1-2 gene due to mis-assembly in the Btau_3.1 build. All other cDNA sequences were found to agree with the previous annotation of complete or partial WC1 genes. PCR amplification and sequencing of the most variable N-terminal SRCR domain (domain 1 which has the SRCR “a” pattern) of each of the thirteen WC1 genes showed that the sequences are highly conserved among individuals and breeds. Of 160 sequences of domain 1 from three breeds of cattle, no additional sequences beyond the thirteen described WC1 genes were found. Analysis of the complete WC1 cDNA sequences indicated that the thirteen WC1 genes code for three distinct WC1 molecular forms.


The bovine WC1 multi-gene family is composed of thirteen genes coding for three structural forms whose sequences are highly conserved among individual cattle and breeds. The sequence diversity necessary for WC1 genes to function as a multi-genic pattern recognition receptor array is encoded in the genome, rather than generated by recombinatorial diversity or hypermutation.

Bovine; WC1; γδ T cells