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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Nov 9;96(23):13282-7.

Molecular dynamics of MHC genesis unraveled by sequence analysis of the 1,796,938-bp HLA class I region.

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  • 1Department of Genetic Information, Division of Molecular Life Science, Tokai University School of Medicine, Bohseidai, Isehara, Kanagawa 259-1193, Japan.


The intensely studied MHC has become the paradigm for understanding the architectural evolution of vertebrate multigene families. The 4-Mb human MHC (also known as the HLA complex) encodes genes critically involved in the immune response, graft rejection, and disease susceptibility. Here we report the continuous 1,796,938-bp genomic sequence of the HLA class I region, linking genes between MICB and HLA-F. A total of 127 genes or potentially coding sequences were recognized within the analyzed sequence, establishing a high gene density of one per every 14.1 kb. The identification of 758 microsatellite provides tools for high-resolution mapping of HLA class I-associated disease genes. Most importantly, we establish that the repeated duplication and subsequent diversification of a minimal building block, MIC-HCGIX-3.8-1-P5-HCGIV-HLA class I-HCGII, engendered the present-day MHC. That the currently nonessential HLA-F and MICE genes have acted as progenitors to today's immune-competent HLA-ABC and MICA/B genes provides experimental evidence for evolution by "birth and death," which has general relevance to our understanding of the evolutionary forces driving vertebrate multigene families.

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