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J Immunol. 1993 Nov 15;151(10):5376-86.

Isolation of a classical MHC class I cDNA from an amphibian. Evidence for only one class I locus in the Xenopus MHC.

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


The amphibian Xenopus is an ectothermic vertebrate in which the MHC has been studied extensively at the functional, biochemical, and genetic levels. A cDNA clone corresponding to the MHC class la gene (Xela-UAA1f) of Xenopus laevis was isolated by screening a cDNA phage library with oligonucleotides based on NH2-terminal protein sequence. Three pieces of evidence support its status as a class la gene: 1) Previous biochemical data suggested that only one polymorphic class la molecule is expressed per MHC haplotype in X. laevis. NH2-terminal sequencing of the class I protein encoded by the f haplotype showed a single unambiguous sequence of the first 22 amino acids; the deduced protein sequence of the cDNA clone matches precisely to this peptide sequence; 2) Genes that hybridized to the cDNA clone segregated perfectly with the serologically typed MHC in two family studies; and 3) There is a strong conservation of amino acids in the peptide-binding region that have been shown in mammals to dock peptides at their NH2- and COOH-termini. In contrast to all other species that have been examined, there appears to be only one class I locus present in the MHC of X. laevis. Xenopus speciates by allopolyploidization, and there are Xenopus species with different levels of ploidy (2n-12n). Functionally, the MHC has been shown to be "diploidized" in most Xenopus species. As in previous studies with MHC class II and HSP70 probes, there is a trend toward maintaining a diploid number of class la genes in all Xenopus species regardless of their chromosome number, probably accomplished through a deletional mechanism. Thus, there is a strong pressure in Xenopus to maintain very few MHC-linked class I genes, exemplified both by the number of class I genes per MHC haplotype and by the number of class la genes per organism.

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