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Dev Comp Immunol. 2009 Aug;33(8):939-47. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

Characterization and evolution of MHC class II B genes in Galápagos marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8105, United States.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules play a key role in the adaptive immune system of vertebrates. Class II B genes appear to evolve in a very different manner in mammals and birds. Orthology is commonly observed among mammal loci, while genes tend to cluster phylogenetically within bird species. Here we present class II B data from a representative of another major group of amniotes, the squamates (i.e. lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians), with the ultimate goal of placing mammalian and avian MHC evolution into a broader context. In this study, eight class II B cDNA sequences were obtained from the Galápagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) which were divided into five locus groups, Amcr-DAB1 through -DAB5, based on similarities along most of the coding and noncoding portions of the transcribed gene. All marine iguana sequences were monophyletic with respect to class II genes from other vertebrates indicating that they originated from a common ancestral locus after squamates split from other reptiles. The beta-1 domain, which is involved in antigen binding, exhibited signatures of positive selection as well as interlocus gene conversion in both long and short tracts-a pattern also observed in birds and fish, but not in mammals. On the other hand, the beta-2 domain was divergent between gene groups, which is characteristic of mammals. Based on these results, we preliminarily show that squamate class II B genes have been shaped by a unique blend of evolutionary forces that have been observed in differing degrees in other vertebrates.

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