To determine the extent of kappa chain diversity in the preimmune repertoire early in development, kappa cDNA libraries were analyzed from 15-d old fetal omentum, 18-d-old fetal liver, and 3-wk old bone marrow. An anchored polymerase chain reaction approach was used to avoid bias for particular V kappa families. From the sequence analysis of 27 bone marrow clones, 10 different families and 20 unique V kappa genes were identified. In contrast, the V kappa expression in the fetus is highly restricted and clearly differs from the broader distribution see in 3-wk-old bone marrow. Although several V kappa families were represented in the fetal library including V kappa 9, V kappa 10, V kappa 4,5, V kappa 8, and V kappa 1, one or two members of individual families were observed repeatedly. The fetal liver and omentum libraries were found to be largely overlapping. Given the V kappa families/exons identified in the fetal sequences, the mechanism of kappa rearrangements in the early repertoire appears to occur predominantly by inversion. Importantly, the fetal repertoire was further restricted by dominant V kappa-J kappa combinations such as V kappa 4,5-J kappa 5, V kappa 9-J kappa 4, and V kappa 10-J kappa 1. Since in some cases independent rearrangements could be established, the results indicate a bias for particular V kappa-J kappa joins. The results also suggest that clonal expansion/selection in the fetal repertoire takes place after light chain rearrangement as opposed to at the pre-B cell level in the bone marrow. The restriction observed in kappa light chain expression together with known restrictions in gene usage and junctional diversity at the heavy chain level indicate a remarkably conserved fetal repertoire.

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