Open Access Research article

Genomic organization and recombinational unit duplication-driven evolution of ovine and bovine T cell receptor gamma loci

Giovanna Vaccarelli1, Maria C Miccoli1, Rachele Antonacci1, Graziano Pesole2 and Salvatrice Ciccarese1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Bari, via Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy

2 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology "Ernesto Quagliariello", University of Bari, via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-81

Published: 18 February 2008



In humans and mice ("γδ low species") less than 5% of the peripheral blood T lymphocytes are gamma/delta T cells, whereas in chicken and artiodactyls ("γδ high species") gamma/delta T cells represent about half of the T cells in peripheral blood. In cattle and sheep (Bovidae) two paralogous T cell receptor gamma loci (TRG1 and TRG2) have been found. TRG1 is located on 4q3.1, within a region of homology with the human TRG locus on chromosome 7, while TRG2 localizes on 4q2.2 and appears to be unique to ruminants. The purpose of this study was the sequencing of the genomic regions encompassing both loci in a "γδ high" organism and the analysis of their evolutionary history.


We obtained the contiguous genomic sequences of the complete sheep TRG1 and TRG2 loci gene repertoire and we performed cattle/sheep sequence analysis comparison using data available through public databases. Dot plot similarity matrix comparing the two sheep loci with each other has shown that variable (V), joining (J) and constant (C) genes have evolved through a series of duplication events involving either entire cassettes, each containing the basic V-J-J-C recombinational unit, or single V genes. The phylogenetic behaviour of the eight enhancer-like elements found in the sheep, compared with the single copy present in the human TRG locus, and evidence from concordant insertions of repetitive elements in all analyzed TRGJ blocks allowed us to infer an evolutionary scenario which highlights the genetic "flexibility" of this region and the duplication-driven evolution of gene cassettes. The strong similarity of the human and Bovidae intergenic J-J-C regions, which display an enhancer-like element at their 3' ends, further supports their key role in duplications.


We propose that only duplications of entire J-J-C regions that possessed an enhancer-like element at their 3' end, and acquired at least one V segment at their 5' end, were selected and fixed as functional recombinational units.