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Trans-species evolution of Mhc-DRB haplotype polymorphism in primates: Organization of DRB genes in the chimpanzee


The DRB region of the human major histocompatibility complex displays length polymorphism: Five major haplotypes differing in the number and type of genes they contain have been identified, each at appreciable frequency. In an attempt to determine whether this haplotype polymorphism, like the allelic polymorphism, predates the divergence of humansfrom great apes, we have worked out the organization of the DRB region of the chimpanzee Hugo using a combination of chromosome walking, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and sequencing. Hugo is a DRB homozygote whose single DRB haplotype is some 440 kilobases (kb) long and contains five genes. At least one and possibly two of these are pseudogenes, while three are presumably active genes. The genes are designated DRB * A0201, DRB2 * 0101, DRB3 * 0201, DRB6 * 0105, and DRB5 * 0301, and are arranged in this order on the chromosome. The DRB2 and DRB3 genes are separated by approximately 250 kb of sequence that does not seem to contain any additional DRB genes. The DRB * A0201 gene is related to the DRB1 gene of the human DR2 haplotype; the DRB2 * 0101 and DRB3 * 0201 genes are related to the DRB2 and DRB3 genes of the human DR3 haplotype, respectively; the DRB6 * 0105 and DRB5 * 0301 genes are related to the DRBVI and DRB5 genes of the human DR2 haplotype, respectively. Thus the Hugo haplotype appears to correspond to the entire human DR2 haplotype, into which a region representing a portion of the human DR3 haplotype has been inserted. Since other chimpanzees have their DRB regions organized in different ways, we conclude that, first, the chimpanzee DRB region, like the human DRB region, displays length polymorphism; second, some chimpanzee DRB haplotypes are longer than the longest known human DRB haplotypes; third, in some chimpanzee haplotypes at least, the DRB genes occur in combinations different from those of the human haplotypes; fourth, and most importantly, certain DRB gene combinations have been conserved in the evolution of chimpanzees and humans from their common ancestors. These data thus provide evidence that not only allelic but also haplotype polymorphism can be passed on from one species to another in a given evolutionary lineage.

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Correspondence to Jan Klein.

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Brändle, U., Ono, H., Vincek, V. et al. Trans-species evolution of Mhc-DRB haplotype polymorphism in primates: Organization of DRB genes in the chimpanzee. Immunogenetics 36, 39–48 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00209291

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  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Common Ancestor
  • Evolutionary Lineage
  • Gene Combination
  • A0201 Gene