The leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) on human chromosome 19 contains related Ig superfamily killer cell Ig-like receptor (KIR) and leukocyte Ig-like receptor (LIR) genes. Previously, we discovered much difference in the KIR genes between humans and chimpanzees, primate species estimated to have approximately 98.8% genomic sequence similarity. Here, the common chimpanzee LIR genes are identified, characterized, and compared with their human counterparts. From screening a chimpanzee splenocyte cDNA library, clones corresponding to nine different chimpanzee LIRs were isolated and sequenced. Analysis of genomic DNA from 48 unrelated chimpanzees showed 42 to have all nine LIR genes, and six animals to lack just one of the genes. In structural diversity and functional type, the chimpanzee LIRs cover the range of human LIRs. Although both species have the same number of inhibitory LIRs, humans have more activating receptors, a trend also seen for KIRs. Four chimpanzee LIRs are clearly orthologs of human LIRs. Five other chimpanzee LIRs have paralogous relationships with clusters of human LIRs and have undergone much recombination. Like the human genes, chimpanzee LIR genes appear to be organized into two duplicated blocks, each block containing two orthologous genes. This organization provides a conserved framework within which there are clusters of faster evolving genes. Human and chimpanzee KIR genes have an analogous arrangement. Whereas both KIR and LIR genes can exhibit greater interspecies differences than the genome average, within each species the LIR gene family is more conserved than the KIR gene family.