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Immunol Rev. 1990 Feb;113:65-82.

Evolution of the class II major histocompatibility complex alleles in higher primates.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida 33101.


We have shown that chimpanzees and gorillas have DRB alleles very similar to those of humans. The existence of similar DRB alleles in the different species of higher primates cannot be accounted for by convergent evolution of unrelated alleles that arose independently after the speciation. We therefore conclude that ancestral DRB alleles, that had existed before the speciation, were transmitted to the ancestors of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas. This conclusion indicates that the diversification of MHC alleles does not start at the inception of a species, but rather proceeds beyond the lifespan of a species. A high degree of sequence similarity found between certain human and non-human primate DRB alleles shows that MHC alleles do not diversify rapidly. The bulk of the contemporary DRB polymorphism seems to have been generated by accumulation of random point mutations during long evolutionary periods preceding the divergence of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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