Receptors subdivided into inhibitory and activating forms play important roles in the regulation of leukocyte development and effector functions. Two prototypic examples of paired receptors are Fc-receptors (FcR) and Killer cell Immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR). FcRs are cell surface proteins that bind to the constant regions of IgG and IgE. Classical KIRs recognize MHC class I molecules and regulate natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxic functions. The evolution of these proteins and the time of their origin remain enigmatic. So far, molecules unequivocally related to mammalian FcRs and KIRs have been identified in chicken and an amphibian Xenopus. The lineage-specific evolution of the FcR and KIR families apparently led to the generation of unique sets of receptors in all species studied. Members of both families show extraordinary diversity of domain architectures. This structural diversity makes elusive the functional relationships between the highly specialized mammalian FcR and KIR genes and their homologs in nonmammalian species.