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Immunogenetics. 2007 Sep;59(9):753-60. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Characterization of major histocompatibility complex class I and class II genes from the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii).

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  • 1Centre for Advanced Technologies in Animal Genetics and Reproduction, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, RMC Gunn B19, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia.


The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is currently threatened by an emerging wildlife disease, devil facial tumour disease. The disease is decreasing devil numbers dramatically and may lead to the extinction of the species. At present, nothing is known about the immune genes or basic immunology of the devil. In this study, we report the construction of the first genetic library for the Tasmanian devil, a spleen cDNA library, and the isolation of full-length MHC Class I and Class II genes. We describe six unique Class II beta chain sequences from at least three loci, which belong to the marsupial Class II DA gene family. We have isolated 13 unique devil Class I sequences, representing at least seven Class I loci, two of which are most likely non-classical genes. The MHC Class I sequences from the devil have little heterogeneity, indicating recent divergence. The MHC genes described here are most likely involved in antigen presentation and are an important first step for studying MHC diversity and immune response in the devil.

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