The human VH5 family consists of two functional genes and one pseudogene. We have found a novel 1.2-kb VH5 gene transcript in normal fetal liver and cord blood and in transformed B lineage cells. VH5-positive cDNA clones were isolated from precursor B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, B chronic lymphoblastic leukemia, Epstein-Barr Virus-transformed B cell lines, and cord blood, and were identified as transcripts of unrearranged VH5 genes (germline transcripts). The cDNA clones were derived from both functional and pseudo-VH5 genes. Most germline transcripts appear to initiate at the normal VH promoter and are cleaved and polyadenylated at sites several hundred bases downstream of the VH5 coding region. Correct splicing of the leader intron was observed in all clones. In functional and pseudo-VH5 cDNAs, an open translational reading frame extends from the leader to a termination codon in the nonamer. Only limited polymorphisms were observed in the coding as well as flanking regions of the VH5 transcripts. Functional and pseudo-VH5 transcripts and previously identified murine germline VHJ558 transcripts are discussed.

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