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Immunogenetics. 2004 Sep;56(6):420-6. Epub 2004 Sep 4.

Evolution of MHC-DRB class II polymorphism in the genus Apodemus and a comparison of DRB sequences within the family Muridae (Mammalia: Rodentia).

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Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation, Biozentrum Grindel, University of Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.


Allelic diversity at major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes is thought to be maintained by balancing selection over long periods of time, even across multiple speciation events. Trans-species sharing of MHC alleles among genera has been supported by many studies on mammals and fish, but in rodents, the results are ambiguous. We investigated natural levels of MHC- DRB variability and evolutionary processes in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis), which are common, sympatric murid rodents in European forests. Using single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis and DNA sequencing, 38 DRB exon 2 alleles were detected among 162 A. sylvaticus from nine different locations in Germany and Switzerland, and 15 DRB exon 2 alleles were detected among 60 A. flavicollis from three different locations in northern Germany. There was evidence for balancing selection in both species. Phylogenetic analysis, including additional murid taxa, showed that the DRB exon 2 sequences did not separate according to species, consistent with trans-species evolution of the MHC in these taxa.

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