We present the complete sequence of a cDNA encoding rabbit immunoglobulin kappa light chains of the Basilea isotype (K2). Although all rabbits seem to possess a K2 constant region gene, expression of this gene in most rabbits is minimal if present at all. Even in Basilea rabbits the majority of expressed immunoglobulins are of lambda type. We find that the sequence of our Basilea cDNA constant region and the sequence of a "silent" K2 gene from b4 rabbits (bas-N4) are almost identical. The bas (K2) isotype lacks cysteine at position 171 in the constant region that is present in all K1 constant regions and usually forms an interdomain disulfide bond, with a cysteine at position 80 of the variable region. We postulate that one factor contributing to the low expression of the bas (K2) isotype could be a paucity of V kappa regions lacking cysteine at position 80. If a typical rabbit V kappa encoding Cys at position 80 is rearranged and expressed with th K2 isotype. B cells with mRNAs encoding light chains with free sulfhydryl groups would result. These cells may fail to form functional immunoglobulin receptors. Only a small subset of rabbit variable regions that lack the cysteine at position 80 would rearrange and encode K2 light chains lacking a free sulfhydryl group.

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