5E6 is a cell surface molecule expressed on a subpopulation of murine natural killer (NK) cells that are involved in the specific rejection of H-2d or H-2f (hemopoietic histocompatibility determinant 2) bone marrow cell grafts. Here, we isolated and cloned the gene encoding 5E6 and determined the nucleotide sequence of the cDNA. 5E6 is nearly identical to Ly-49C; the deduced amino acid sequence reveals a polypeptide of 266 amino acids with a molecular weight of 31,284 that contains multiple cysteine residues to explain its disulfide-linked homodimer structure and five potential N-linked glycosylation sites. 5E6 is a type II integral membrane protein with an extracellular carbohydrate recognition domain characteristic of C-type (Ca(2+)-dependent) animal lectins. Chromosomal mapping indicates that 5E6 is located within the NK gene complex on chromosome 6. The sequence of 5E6 mRNA and the degree of glycosylation of 5E6 protein are under genetic control. Immunoprecipitation before removal of N-linked sugars reveals different size molecules. There are several nucleotide differences among BALB/c, B6, and NZB mRNAs; however, none of them would be expected to affect N-glycosylation. Of particular interest are two findings: (a) BALB/c, B6, and (BALB/c x B6)F1 5E6 reduced molecules are approximately 65, 54, and 54 kD, and (b) the cDNA sequence of (BALB/c x B6)F1 is identical to B6. Thus, there appears to be allelic exclusion of 5E6 expression that may be related to the ability of F1 hybrid mice to reject parental H-2d bone marrow cell grafts.

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