Self and Nonself

Volume 738 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 277-289

The Emergence of the Major Histocompatilibility Complex

  • Jesús Martínez-BorraAffiliated withImmunology Department, Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias
  • , Carlos López-LarreaAffiliated withImmunology Department, Hospital Universitario Central de AsturiasFundación Renal „Iñigo Álvarez de Toledo“ Email author 

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The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a genomic region that contains genes that encode proteins involved with antigen presentation and, therefore, plays an important role in the adaptive immune system. The origin of these genes was probably an ancestral MHC that appeared before the emergence of the adaptive immune system and contained genes related to immunity. The organization of MHC genes varies in different groups of vertebrates; although, there are some characteristics that are maintained in all groups, which indicates that they confer some evolutionary advantage: Organization of the genes to form clusters and genetic polymorphisms. The study of how the MHC appeared during evolution and how it is organized in different species can help us clarify what features are essential in their participation in self-nonself recognition.