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Immunogenetics. 2005 Jan;56(10):683-95. Epub 2004 Dec 18.

Comparative genomics of major histocompatibility complexes.

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Immunology Division, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, CB2 1QP, UK.


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a gene dense region found in all jawed vertebrates examined to date. The MHC contains a high percentage of immune genes, in particular genes involved in antigen presentation, which are generally highly polymorphic. The region plays an important role in disease resistance. The clustering of MHC genes could be advantageous for co-evolution or regulation, and its study in many species is desirable. Even though some linkage of MHC genes is apparent in all gnathostomes, the genomic organization can differ greatly by species, suggesting rapid evolution of MHC genes after divergence from a common ancestor. Previous reviews of comparative MHC organization have been written when relatively fragmentary sequence and mapping data were available on many species. This review compares maps of MHC gene orders in commonly studied species, where extensive sequencing has been performed.

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