The prototypic chondrichthyan immunoglobulin (Ig) light chain type (type I) isolated from Heterodontus francisci (horned shark) has a clustered organization in which variable (V), joining (J), and constant (C) elements are in relatively close linkage (V-J-C). Using a polymerase chain reaction-based approach on a light chain peptide sequence from the holocephalan, Hydrolagus colliei (spotted ratfish), it was possible to isolate members of a second light chain gene family. A probe to this light chain (type II) detects homologs in two orders of elasmobranchs, Heterodontus, a galeomorph and Raja erinacea (little skate), a batoid, suggesting that this light chain type may be present throughout the cartilaginous fishes. In all cases, V, J, and C regions of the type II gene are arranged in closely linked clusters typical of all known Ig genes in cartilaginous fishes. All representatives of this type II gene family are joined in the germline. A third (kappa-like) light chain type from Heterodontus is described. These findings establish that a degree of light chain class complexity comparable to that of the mammals is present in the most phylogenetically distant extant jawed vertebrates and that the phenomenon of germline-joined (pre-rearranged) genes, described originally in the heavy chain genes of cartilaginous fishes, extends to light chain genes.
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