, Volume 60, Issue 12, pp 775-781
Date: 29 Aug 2008

High variability in the MHC class II DA beta chain of the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

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Abstract

The diversity of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) loci was investigated in the brushtail possum, an important marsupial pest species in New Zealand. Immunocontraception, a form of fertility control that generates an autoimmune response, is being developed as a population control method for the possum. Because the immune response is partly under genetic control, an understanding of immunogenetics in possum will be crucial to the development of immunocontraceptive vaccines. MHC molecules are critical in the vertebrate immune response. Class II MHC molecules bind and present exogenously derived peptides to T lymphocytes and may be important in the presentation of immunocontraceptives. We used polymerase chain reaction primers designed to amplify the peptide binding region of possum class II MHC genes to isolate sequences from 49 animals. We have previously described 19 novel alleles from the DAB locus in the possum (Holland et al., Immunogenetics 60:449–460, 2008). Here, we report on another 11 novel alleles isolated from possum DAB, making this the most diverse marsupial locus described so far. This high level of diversity indicates that DAB is an important MHC locus in the possum and will need to be taken into account in the design of immunocontraceptive vaccines.