Variable lymphocyte receptors (VLR) generate enormous diversity through assembling highly diverse leucine-rich repeat (LRR) modules and presumably function as antigen receptors in jawless vertebrates. The hagfish, which constitute major extant members of jawless vertebrates along with lampreys, have two VLR genes designated VLRA and VLRB, whereas only a single VLR gene has been identified in the lamprey. In the present study, we show by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) that hagfish VLRA and VLRB are located on the same chromosome, but are far apart from each other. Analysis of available inshore hagfish complementary DNA sequences indicates that VLRA and VLRB do not share a LRR module with an identical nucleotide sequence. Physical separation of VLRA and VLRB is consistent with this observation and indicates that the two VLR genes function as separate units. The FISH protocol developed in this study should be useful for the analysis of the agnathan genome.
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