• NK receptor;
  • KIR;
  • Non-human primate;
  • Recombination;
  • Molecular evolution


Killer cell immunoglobulin (Ig)-like receptors (KIR) were characterized in the West African sabaeus monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) to elucidate the mechanism by which diversity evolves in this family of molecules. Complementary DNA encoding four forms of KIR molecules, including KIR3DL, KIR2DL4, KIR2DL5, and KIR3DH forms, were identified in two unrelated sabaeus monkeys. A novel hybrid form showing features found in both KIR2DL5 and KIR3DH was also identified. Both the KIR3DL and KIR3DH forms from the sabaeus monkey were considerably more polymorphic than any KIR form identified in great apes or humans. The polymorphic residues of the three Ig-like domains were frequently located in structural loops, indicating that point mutations have occurred in these regions. The three Ig-like domains of the KIR3D forms of six primate species were found to have different patterns of clustering in phylogenetic trees, suggesting that each Ig-like domain has a distinct phylogenetic history. This variation in relationships suggests that repeated recombination events have occurred between the Ig-like domains during the evolution of the KIR family in primates. Recombination between individual Ig-like domains, in addition to point mutations, provides a mechanism for generating the diversity of the KIR genes.