The Thy-1 membrane glycoprotein from rat brain is shown to have structural and sequence homologies with immunoglobulin (Ig) domains on the basis of the following evidence. 1. The two disulphide bonds of Thy-1 are both consistent with the Ig-fold. 2. The molecule contains extensive beta-structure as shown by the c.d. spectrum. 3. Secondary structure prediction locates beta-strands along the sequence in a manner consistent with the Ig-fold. 4. On the basis of rules derived from known beta-sheet structures, a three-dimensional structure with the Ig-fold is predicted as favourable for Thy-1. 5. Sequences in the proposed beta-strands of Thy-1 and known beta-strands of Ig domains show significant sequence homology. This homology is statistically more significant than for the comparison of proposed beta-strand sequences of beta 2-microglobulin with Ig domains. An hypothesis is presented for the possible functional significance of an evolutionary relationship between Thy-1 and Ig. It is suggested that both Thy-1 and Ig evolved from primitive molecules, with an Ig fold, which mediated cell--cell interactions. The present-day role of Thy-1 may be similar to that of the primitive domain.

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