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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. May 9, 1995; 92(10): 4259–4263.
PMCID: PMC41923

Low major histocompatibility complex class II diversity in European and North American moose.

Abstract

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes encode cell surface proteins whose function is to bind and present intracellularly processed peptides to T lymphocytes of the immune system. Extensive MHC diversity has been documented in many species and is maintained by some form of balancing selection. We report here that both European and North American populations of moose (Alces alces) exhibit very low levels of genetic diversity at an expressed MHC class II DRB locus. The observed polymorphism was restricted to six amino acid substitutions, all in the peptide binding site, and four of these were shared between continents. The data imply that the moose have lost MHC diversity in a population bottleneck, prior to the divergence of the Old and New World subspecies. Sequence analysis of mtDNA showed that the two subspecies diverged at least 100,000 years ago. Thus, viable moose populations with very restricted MHC diversity have been maintained for a long period of time. Both positive selection for polymorphism and intraexonic recombination have contributed to the generation of MHC diversity after the putative bottleneck.

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