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Genomic organisation analysis of novel immunoglobulin-like transcripts in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) reveals a tightly clustered and multigene family

Anders E Østergaard13, Krzysztof P Lubieniecki2, Samuel AM Martin1, René JM Stet1, William S Davidson2 and Christopher J Secombes1*

Author Affiliations

1 Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre, University of Aberdeen, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK

2 Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6

3 Cell Biology & Immunology Group, Department of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:697  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-697

Published: 9 December 2010



Several novel immunoglobulin-like transcripts (NILTs) which have previously been identified in the salmonid species rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) contain either one or two extracellular Ig domains of the V-type. NILTs also possess either an immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activating motif (ITAM) or immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs (ITIMs) in the cytoplasmic region resulting in different signalling abilities. Here we report for the first time the genomic organisation and structure of the multigene family of NILTs in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) using a BAC sequencing approach.


We have identified six novel Atlantic salmon NILT genes (Ssa-NILT1-6), two pseudogenes (Ssa-NILTp1 and Ssa-NILTp2) and seven genes encoding putative transposable elements in one BAC covering more than 200 kbp. Ssa-NILT1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 contain one Ig domain, all having a CX3C motif, whereas Ssa-NILT3 contains two Ig domains, having a CX6C motif in Ig1 and a CX7C motif in Ig2. Atlantic salmon NILTs possess several ITIMs in the cytoplasmic region and the ITIM-bearing exons are in phase 0. A comparison of identity between the amino acid sequences of the CX3C Ig domains from NILTs varies from 77% to 96%. Ssa-NILT1, 2, 3 and 4 were all confirmed to be expressed either by their presence in EST databases (Ssa-NILT1) or RT-PCR (Ssa-NILT2, 3, and 4) using cDNA as template. A survey of the repertoire of putative NILT genes in a single individual revealed three novel genes (Ssa-NILT7-9) represented by the Ig domain, which together with Ig domains from Ssa-NILT1-6 could be divided into different groups based on specific motifs.


This report reveals a tightly clustered, multigene NILT family in Atlantic salmon. By screening a highly redundant Atlantic salmon BAC library we have identified and characterised the genomic organisation of six genes encoding NILT receptors. The genes show similar characteristics to NILTs previously identified in rainbow trout, having highly conserved cysteines in the Ig domain and several inhibitory signalling motifs in the cytoplasmic region. In a single individual three unique NILT Ig domain sequences were discovered at the genomic DNA level, which were divided into two different groups based on a four residue motif after the third cysteine. Our results from the BAC screening and analysis on the repertoire of NILT genes in a single individual indicates that many genes of this expanding Ig containing NILT family are still to be discovered in fish.