CD4-CD8- gamma delta T cells of ruminants uniquely express a 220-kDa surface Ag recognized by several mAbs clustered as WC1. We recently reported the isolation of a cDNA clone encoding a WC1 Ag. Southern blotting suggested that the bovine genome contains multiple sequences highly related to the isolated WC1 cDNA. Here, we demonstrate that some of the clustered WC1 mAbs stain predominantly nonoverlapping subsets of bovine CD4-CD8- gamma delta T cells. By the isolation of two additional cDNA clones encoding molecules highly related to the original WC1 Ag, we provide a molecular basis for this phenomenon. Cells transfected with cDNAs encoding individual WC1 Ags are differentially recognized by various WC1 mAbs. Thus, expression of members of the WC1 gene family divides bovine CD4-CD8- gamma delta T cells into phenotypical subsets. Field inversion gel electrophoresis revealed that all WC1 genes map to a single, large (> 1 Mbp) Notl fragment. Although the function of WC1 remains unknown, it likely involves interaction with ligands that originate from a similarly complex genetic system.
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