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EMBO J. 1985 Nov;4(11):2849-54.

Exon shuffling in vivo can generate novel HLA class I molecules.


The human class I histocompatibility molecule HLA-Aw69 has serological and structural properties which suggested it was a hybrid of the allelic products HLA-A2 and HLA-Aw68. We have now isolated three genes for HLA-Aw69 and one gene for HLA-Aw68. The sequences of exons encoding the entire extracellular portion of the molecule and of intron 2 have been determined. Their comparison with the published sequence of HLA-A2 proves that HLA-Aw69 is a hybrid molecule with complete identity to HLA-Aw68 in the alpha 1 domain and with HLA-A2 in the alpha 2 and alpha 3 domains. This comparison also localised regions involved in the epitopes recognised by monoclonal antibodies. The three HLA-Aw69 genes obtained from unrelated individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds are identical. All results are consistent with HLA-Aw69 having arisen by a single reciprocal recombination event between the HLA-Aw68 and HLA-A2 genes somewhere in a region of 86 bp about the 3' donor splice site of exon 2. Estimates of the silent mutation rate in HLA genes suggest this event occurred not more than 330 000 years ago. Intra-allelic reciprocal recombination thus represents a further mechanism in addition to gene conversion for the generation of novel class I histocompatibility alleles.

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