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Mol Mar Biol Biotechnol. 1998 Sep;7(3):221-31.

Cloning of major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) genes from threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Biologie, Abteilung Immungenetik, Corrensstr. 42, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus is an important model in evolutionary and ethologic studies. Its utility would greatly be increased by the availability of molecular markers distinguishing individuals and populations. Such markers can be provided by the major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) genes, which are well known for their extensive polymorphism. In the present study, both class I and class II B Mhc genes have been identified and sequenced. Fifteen distinct class I exon 2 and exon 3 sequences were obtained and assigned to 12 loci on the basis of intron 2 length differences. Some of the loci appear to be related to class I loci identified previously in cichlid fish. The intron 2 sequences and insertions/deletions in exon 2 group the loci into three families (with one family divided further into two subfamilies) derived from different ancestral genes. The ancestors presumably diverged from one another before the divergence of Gasterosteiformes from Perciformes. The 12 distinct class II B sequences may be derived from six loci, which are, however, closely related to one another in both exonic and intronic parts and may have diverged from a single common ancestor after the divergence of Gasterosteiformes from Perciformes. The intron 2 of some of the class I genes contains two microsatellites that can be used as markers, in addition to the polymorphism of the Mhc genes in their exonic regions.

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