A cDNA plasmid insert encoding the constant (C) region of a rabbit immunoglobulin-lambda light chain was used as a probe for screening a rabbit liver genomic DNA cosmid library. This allowed the isolation and identification of four distinct C lambda genes, designated C lambda 1, C lambda 2, C lambda 3, and C lambda 4, which were shown to be widely separated from each other along chromosomal DNA. Their nucleotide sequences have been determined. No in-frame termination codons were found within the coding regions. The C lambda 1, C lambda 2, and C lambda 3 sequences are quite similar to each other, but share less homology with the C lambda 4 gene or the cDNA-C lambda sequence used as a probe. The C lambda gene coding for the cDNA sequence was not isolated. Translation of the C lambda 1, C lambda 2, and C lambda 3 sequences predicts a Cys-Pro carboxy-terminal amino acid sequence, as found so far only for horse lambda-chains. Compared to the other rabbit C lambda genes, the C lambda 3 sequence exhibits two deletions, one of 9 bp, the other of 3 bp. The latter occurs at the same position as in the mouse C lambda 2 and C lambda 3 genes. These two deletions are located in the loops between anti-parallel beta-pleated sheets of the C lambda domain. When the C lambda nucleotide sequences from man, mouse, and rabbit are compared, there is less divergence within the same species than for interspecies comparisons. Possible genetic implications of this finding are discussed.

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