, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 341-352
Date: 25 Mar 2009

Trans-species polymorphism of the Mhc class II DRB-like gene in banded penguins (genus Spheniscus)

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Abstract

The Major Histocompatibility Complex (Mhc) class II DRB locus of vertebrates is highly polymorphic and some alleles may be shared between closely related species as a result of balancing selection in association with resistance to parasites. In this study, we developed a new set of PCR primers to amplify, clone, and sequence overlapping portions of the Mhc class II DRB-like gene from the 5′UTR end to intron 3, including exons 1, 2, and 3 and introns 1 and 2 in four species (20 Humboldt, six African, five Magellanic, and three Galapagos penguins) of penguin from the genus Spheniscus (Sphe). Analysis of gene sequence variation by the neighbor-joining method of 21 Sphe sequences and 20 previously published sequences from four other penguin species revealed overlapping clades within the Sphe species, but species-specific clades for the other penguin species. The overlap of the DRB-like gene sequence variants between the four Sphe species suggests that, despite their allopatric distribution, the Sphe species are closely related and that some shared DRB1 alleles may have undergone a trans-species inheritance because of balancing selection and/or recent rapid speciation. The new primers and PCR assays that we have developed for the identification of the DRB1 DNA and protein sequence variations appear to be useful for the characterization of the molecular evolution of the gene in closely related Penguin species and might be helpful for the assessment of the genetic health and the management of the conservation and captivity of these endangered species.

The nucleotide sequence and amino acid sequence data reported in this paper have been submitted to the DDBJ database and have been assigned the accession numbers AB301478, AB301944–AB301950, AB302087–AB302090, AB302190–AB302192, AB302843, AB302844, and AB303942–AB303945.