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Open Access Research article

Genomic organization and classification of the bovine WC1 genes and expression by peripheral blood gamma delta T cells

Carolyn TA Herzig1* and Cynthia L Baldwin12

Author Affiliations

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

2 Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 01003, USA

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10:191  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-191

Published: 24 April 2009



WC1 co-receptors are group B scavenger receptor cysteine-rich molecules that are found exclusively on γδT cells and are thought to be encoded by a multi-gene family. Previous studies have shown γδT cells that respond to a particular stimulus have unique WC1 molecules expressed. Prior to the onset of the studies described here only one full-length WC1 nucleotide sequence was publicly available, though three WC1 molecules had been distinguished based on monoclonal antibody reactivity. Furthermore, the number of WC1 genes found in the bovine genome and their sequences had not yet been resolved.


By annotating the bovine genome Btau_3.1 assembly, here we show the existence of 13 members in the WC1 gene family and their organization within two loci on chromosome 5 including three distinct exon-intron gene structures one of which coded for a potentially more primitive and smaller WC1 molecule that is similar to the swine WC1 gene. We also provide cDNA evidence as verification for many of the annotated sequences and show transcripts for isoforms derived by alternative splicing.


It is possible that WC1 diversity contributes to functional differences that have been observed between γδT cell populations. The studies described here demonstrate that WC1 molecules are encoded by a large, multi-gene family whose transcripts undergo extensive alternative splicing. Similar to other non-rearranging immunoreceptors, it is likely that the WC1 gene repertoire underwent expansion in order to keep pace with rapidly changing ligands.