The CD94 receptor, expressed on natural killer (NK) and CD8+ T cells, is known as a relatively non-polymorphic receptor with orthologues in humans, other primates, cattle, and rodents. In the house mouse (Mus musculus), a single allele is highly conserved among laboratory strains, and reports of allelic variation in lab- or wild-living mice are lacking, except for deficiency in one lab strain (DBA/2J). The non-classical MHC-I molecule Qa-1b is the ligand for mouse CD94/NKG2A, presenting alternative non-americ fragment of leader peptides (Qa-1 determinant modifier (Qdm)) from classical MHC-I molecules. Here, we report a novel allele identified in free-living house mice captured in Norway, living among individuals carrying the canonical Cd94 allele. The novel Cd94LocA allele encodes 12 amino acid substitutions in the extracellular lectin-like domain. Flow cytometric analysis of primary NK cells and transfected cells indicates that the substitutions prevent binding of CD94 mAb and Qa-1b/Qdm tetramers. Our data further indicate correlation of Cd94 polymorphism with the two major subspecies of house mice in Europe. Together, these findings suggest that the Cd94LocA/NKG2A heterodimeric receptor is widely expressed among M. musculus subspecies musculus, with ligand-binding properties different from mice of subspecies domesticus, such as the C57BL/6 strain.
Keywords: Comparative immunology/evolution; Genomics; Inhibitory/activating receptors; MHC; NK cell.