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Immunity. 2001 Sep;15(3):351-62.

Comparative genomics of the MHC: glimpses into the evolution of the adaptive immune system.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Room 13-009, 655 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21021, USA.


MHC gene organization (size, complexity, gene order) differs markedly among different species, and yet all nonmammalian vertebrates examined to date have a true "class I region" with tight linkage of genes encoding the class I presenting and processing molecules. Three paralogous regions of the human genome contain sets of linked genes homologous to various loci in the MHC class I, class II, and/or class III regions, providing insight into the organization of the "proto MHC" before the emergence of the adaptive immune system in the jawed vertebrates.

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