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J Exp Med. 2001 Jan 1;193(1):135-46.

Short KIR haplotypes in pygmy chimpanzee (Bonobo) resemble the conserved framework of diverse human KIR haplotypes.

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  • 1Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Some pygmy chimpanzees (also called Bonobos) give much simpler patterns of hybridization on Southern blotting with killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) cDNA probes than do either humans or common chimpanzees. Characterization of KIRs from pygmy chimpanzees having simple and complex banding patterns identified nine different KIRs, representing seven genes. Five of these genes have orthologs in the common chimpanzee, and three of them (KIRCI, KIR2DL4, and KIR2DL5) also have human orthologs. The remaining two genes are KIR3D paralogous to the human and common chimpanzee major histocompatibility complex A- and/or -B-specific KIRs. Within a pygmy chimpanzee family, KIR haplotypes were defined. Simple patterns on Southern blot were due to inheritance of "short" KIR haplotypes containing only three KIR genes, KIRCI, KIR2DL4, and KIR3D, each of which represents one of the three major KIR lineages. These three genes in pygmy chimpanzees or their corresponding genes in humans and common chimpanzees form the conserved "framework" common to all KIR haplotypes in these species and upon which haplotypic diversity is built. The fecundity and health of individual pygmy chimpanzees who are homozygotes for short KIR haplotypes attest to the viability of short KIR haplotypes, indicating that they can provide minimal, essential KIRs for the natural killer and T cells of the hominoid immune system.

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