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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Oct;85(20):7714-8.

A primate species with limited major histocompatibility complex class I polymorphism.

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Harvard Medical School, New England Regional Primate Research Center, Southborough, MA 01772.


Extensive polymorphism at the major histo-compatibility complex (MHC) is thought to confer immune protection on populations. A New World primate, the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus), has a high prevalence of ulcerative colitis and adenocarcinoma of the colon and dies after infection with several human viruses. Lymphocytes from all animals tested expressed on common MHC class I allelic product. Another MHC class I allelic product was expressed by 39 of 41 tested animals. Four other allelic products were also expressed on the lymphocytes of these animals at a frequency of greater than 50%. MHC class II gene products, however, were polymorphic. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis confirmed that there were a limited number of cotton-top tamarin MHC class I alleles, whereas the MHC class II gene loci were polymorphic. This sharing of MHC class I alleles is unprecedented in a higher primate species and may play a role in the susceptibility of this endangered species to pathogens.

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