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Immunol Rev. 1998 Dec;166:317-31.

What sharks can tell us about the evolution of MHC genes.

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Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, CA 95039-0450, USA.


Similarity in structural features would argue that sharks possess class I, class IIA and class IIB genes, coding for classical peptide-presenting molecules, as well as non-classical class I genes. Some aspects of shark major histocompatibility complex genes are similar to teleost genes and others are similar to tetrapod genes. Shark class I genes form a monophyletic group, as also seen for tetrapods, but the classical and nonclassical genes form two orthologous clades, as seen for teleosts. Teleost class I genes arose independently at least four different times with the nonclassical genes of ray-finned fishes and all the shark and lobe-finned fish class I genes forming 1 clade. The ray-finned fish classical class I genes arose separately. In phylogenetic trees of class II alpha 2 and beta 2 domains, the shark and tetrapod genes cluster more closely than the teleost genes and, unlike the teleost sequences, the class II alpha 1 domains of sharks and tetrapods lack cysteines. On the other hand, both shark and teleost genes display sequence motifs in the antigen-binding cleft that have persisted over very long time periods. The similarities may reflect common selective pressures on species in aqueous environments while differences may be due to different evolutionary rates.

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