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PLoS One. 2010 Jun 30;5(6):e11402. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011402.

Trans-species polymorphism and selection in the MHC class II DRA genes of domestic sheep.

Author information

1
Division of Epidemiology and Population Biology, Moredun Research Institute, Penicuik, United Kingdom. keith.ballingall@moredun.ac.uk

Abstract

Highly polymorphic genes with central roles in lymphocyte mediated immune surveillance are grouped together in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in higher vertebrates. Generally, across vertebrate species the class II MHC DRA gene is highly conserved with only limited allelic variation. Here however, we provide evidence of trans-species polymorphism at the DRA locus in domestic sheep (Ovis aries). We describe variation at the Ovar-DRA locus that is far in excess of anything described in other vertebrate species. The divergent DRA allele (Ovar-DRA*0201) differs from the sheep reference sequences by 20 nucleotides, 12 of which appear non-synonymous. Furthermore, DRA*0201 is paired with an equally divergent DRB1 allele (Ovar-DRB1*0901), which is consistent with an independent evolutionary history for the DR sub-region within this MHC haplotype. No recombination was observed between the divergent DRA and B genes in a range of breeds and typical levels of MHC class II DR protein expression were detected at the surface of leukocyte populations obtained from animals homozygous for the DRA*0201, DRB1*0901 haplotype. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis groups Ovar-DRA*0201 with DRA sequences derived from species within the Oryx and Alcelaphus genera rather than clustering with other ovine and caprine DRA alleles. Tests for Darwinian selection identified 10 positively selected sites on the branch leading to Ovar-DRA*0201, three of which are predicted to be associated with the binding of peptide antigen. As the Ovis, Oryx and Alcelaphus genera have not shared a common ancestor for over 30 million years, the DRA*0201 and DRB1*0901 allelic pair is likely to be of ancient origin and present in the founding population from which all contemporary domestic sheep breeds are derived. The conservation of the integrity of this unusual DR allelic pair suggests some selective advantage which is likely to be associated with the presentation of pathogen antigen to T-cells and the induction of protective immunity.

PMID:
20613987
PMCID:
PMC2894946
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0011402
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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