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J Immunol. 1994 Mar 1;152(5):2298-307.

Expansion and contraction of rhesus macaque DRB regions by duplication and deletion.

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Tegepast Natuurwetenschappelyk Onclerzoek, Department of Chronic and Infectious Diseases, Rijswijk, The Netherlands.


Previous sequence analysis of the rhesus macaque MHC (MhcMamu) class II DRB region has allowed the detection of at least 34 alleles belonging to different lineages. In this communication, 36 new Mamu-DRB alleles are reported. The gene content of the DRB region has been determined for several homozygous animals of consanguineous origin. As in other primates, the number of DRB genes present per haplotype is not constant, varying from two to six genes in rhesus macaques. Six major groups of DRB haplotypes have been defined in our rhesus macaque colony. Two haplotype groups were found to carry, as well as other Mamu-DRB genes, two genes that cluster into distinct HLA-DRB1 lineages. In one of these two groups, a haplotype harbors another two sets of DRB alleles that belong to the Mhc-DRB6 and -DRB*W6 lineages, respectively. Such a haplotype was probably generated by duplication, and our data suggest that after this particular expansion of the DR region, one of the duplicated Mamu-DRB6 alleles was the target of an Alu insertion. Although certain transspecies allelic lineages are evolutionarily stable, and have been conserved for at least 36 million years, the rhesus macaque class II haplotypes differ significantly from those found in humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas. Mhc-DRB regions are therefore comparatively unstable over longer evolutionary time spans, with regard to both the number of genes and the gene content, and must have been subjected to expansion and contraction.

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