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Immunogenetics. 2018 Feb;70(2):125-133. doi: 10.1007/s00251-017-1018-2. Epub 2017 Jul 1.

Characterisation of MHC class I genes in the koala.

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School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Centre for Animal Health Innovation, Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia.
Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Beerwah, QLD, 4519, Australia.
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations are on the decline across the majority of Australia's mainland. Two major diseases threatening the long-term survival of affected koala populations are caused by obligate intracellular pathogens: Chlamydia and koala retrovirus (KoRV). To improve our understanding of the koala immune system, we characterised their major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genes, which are centrally involved in presenting foreign peptides derived from intracellular pathogens to cytotoxic T cells. A total of 11 class I genes were identified in the koala genome. Three genes, Phci-UA, UB and UC, showed relatively high genetic variability and were expressed in all 12 examined tissues, whereas the other eight genes had tissue-specific expression and limited polymorphism. Evidence of diversifying selection was detected in Phci-UA and UC, while gene conversion may have played a role in creating new alleles at Phci-UB. We propose that Phci-UA, UB and UC are likely classical MHC genes of koalas, and further research is needed to understand their role in koala chlamydial and KoRV infections.


Class I; Koala; MHC; Marsupial

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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