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Immunogenetics. 2005 Apr;57(1-2):16-24. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Patterns of variability at the major histocompatibility class II alpha locus in Atlantic salmon contrast with those at the class I locus.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK. sonia.consuegra@st-andrews.ac.uk


In order to investigate the mechanisms creating and maintaining variability at the major histocompatibility (MH) class II alpha (DAA) locus we examined patterns of polymorphism in two isolated Atlantic salmon populations which share a common post-glacial origin. As expected from their common origin, but contrary to the observation at the MH class I locus, these populations shared the majority of DAA alleles: out of 17 sequences observed, 11 were common to both populations. Recombination seems to play a more important role in the origin of new alleles at the class II alpha locus than at the class I locus. A greater than expected proportion of sites inferred to be positively selected (potentially peptide binding residues, PBRs) were found to be involved in recombination events, suggesting a mechanism for increasing MH variability through an interaction between recombination and natural selection. Thus it appears that although selection and recombination are important mechanisms for the evolution of both class II alpha and class I loci in the Atlantic salmon, the pattern of variability differs markedly between these classes of MH loci.

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