Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Summary: MHC classical class I and class II genes have been identified in representative species from all major jawed vertebrate taxa, the oldest group being the cartilaginous fish, whereas no class I/II genes of any type have been detected in animals from older taxa. Among ectothermic vertebrate classes, studies of MHC architecture have been done in cartilaginous fish (sharks), bony fish (several teleost species), and amphibians (the frog Xenopus). The Xenopus MHC contains class I, class II, and class III genes, demonstrating that all of these genes were linked in the ancestor of the tetrapods, but the gene order is not the same as that in mouse/man. Studies of poly-ploid Xenopus suggest that MHC genes can be differentially silenced when multiple copies are present; i.e. MHC 'subregions’can be silenced. Surprisingly, in all teleosts examined to date class I and class II genes are not linked. Likewise, class III genes like the complement genes factor B (Bf) and C4 are scattered throughout the genome of teleosts. However, the presumed classical class I genes are closely linked to the‘immune’proteasome genes, LMP2 and LMP7, and to the peptide-transporter genes (TAP), implying that a true‘class I region’exists in this group. A similar type of linkage group is found in chickens and perhaps Xenopus, and thus it may reveal die ancestral organization of class I-associated genes, In cartilaginous fish, classical and non-classical class I genes have been isolated from three shark species, and class II A and B chain genes from nurse sharks. Studies of MHC linkage in sharks are being carried out to provide further understanding of the putative primordial organization of MHC. Segregation studies in one shark family point to linkage of class I and class II genes, suggesting that the non-linkage of these genes in teleosts is a derived characteristic.
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