Immunogenetics

, Volume 58, Issue 2–3, pp 203–215 | Cite as

Paucity of class I MHC gene heterogeneity between individuals in the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population

  • Brian M. Aldridge
  • Lizabeth Bowen
  • Brett R. Smith
  • George A. Antonelis
  • Frances Gulland
  • Jeffrey L. Stott
Original Paper

Abstract

The Hawaiian monk seal population has experienced precipitous declines in the last 50 years. In this study, we provide evidence that individuals from remaining endangered population exhibit alarming uniformity in class I major histocompatibility (MHC) genes. The peripheral blood leukocyte-derived mRNA of six captive animals rescued from a stranding incident on the French frigate shoals in the Hawaiian archipelago was used to characterize genes in the monk seal class I MHC gene family, from which techniques for genotyping the broader population were designed using degenerate primers designed for the three major established human MHC class I loci (HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-C), and by sequencing multiple clones, six unique full-length classical MHC class I gene transcripts were identified among the six animals, three of which were only found in single individuals. Since The low degree of sequence variation between these transcripts and the similarity of genotype between individuals provided preliminary evidence for low class I MHC variability in the population. The sequence information from the class I transcripts from these six animals was used to design several primer sets for examining the extent of MHC variability in the remaining population using a combination of polymerase chain reaction and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Several DGGE assays, each one amplifying subtly different class I MHC gene combinations, were designed to compare exons encoding the highly polymorphic domains of the putative peptide-binding region of MHC class I. In combination, these assays failed to show interindividual variability at any of the class I MHC gene loci examined in either the six captive seals or in 80 free-ranging animals (∼6.7% of the estimated population) representing all six major subpopulations of Hawaiian monk seal.

Keywords

Major histocompatibility complex Hawaiian monk seal Endangered species Immunogenetics Immunology 

Abbreviations

MHC

Major histocompatibility complex

DGGE

Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis

PCR

Polymerase chain reaction

HLA

Human leukocyte antigen

Mosc-Mhc I

Monachus schauinslandi MHC class I

Notes

Acknowledgements

These studies were made possible by a generous grant from the Morris Animal Foundation. The authors thank Dr. Les Dalton, Dr. Jim McBain, and the staff of Sea World of San Antonio, TX, and Dr. Robert Braun (contract veterinarian) and staff of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the collection of samples from captive and wild seals, respectively. The collection of samples for this research was authorized by Marine Mammal Permit 848-1335 and by permit issued by Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior. Experiments described in this paper conform to the current laws in the United States regarding the care and use of vertebrate animals for research.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian M. Aldridge
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lizabeth Bowen
    • 2
  • Brett R. Smith
    • 2
  • George A. Antonelis
    • 3
  • Frances Gulland
    • 4
  • Jeffrey L. Stott
    • 2
  1. 1.Veterinary Clinical SciencesRoyal Veterinary CollegeNorth MymmsUK
  2. 2.Laboratory for Marine Mammal Immunology, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  3. 3.The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC)GGNRASausalitoUSA
  4. 4.National Marine Fisheries ServiceHonoluluUSA

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