Copyright © 2014 The Authors.
Under selection pressure from pathogens, variable NK cell receptors that recognize polymorphic MHC class I evolved convergently in different species of placental mammal. Unexpectedly, diversified killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs) are shared by simian primates, including humans, and cattle, but not by other species. Whereas much is known of human KIR genetics and genomics, knowledge of cattle KIR is limited to nine cDNA sequences. To facilitate comparison of the cattle and human KIR gene families, we determined the genomic location, structure, and sequence of two cattle KIR haplotypes and defined KIR sequences of aurochs, the extinct wild ancestor of domestic cattle. Larger than its human counterpart, the cattle KIR locus evolved through successive duplications of a block containing ancestral KIR3DL and KIR3DX genes that existed before placental mammals. Comparison of two cattle KIR haplotypes and aurochs KIR show the KIR are polymorphic and the gene organization and content appear conserved. Of 18 genes, 8 are functional and 10 were inactivated by point mutation. Selective inactivation of KIR3DL and activating receptor genes leaves a functional cohort of one inhibitory KIR3DL, one activating KIR3DX, and six inhibitory KIR3DX. Functional KIR diversity evolved from KIR3DX in cattle and from KIR3DL in simian primates. Although independently evolved, cattle and human KIR gene families share important function-related properties, indicating that cattle KIR are NK cell receptors for cattle MHC class I. Combinations of KIR and MHC class I are the major genetic factors associated with human disease and merit investigation in cattle.