Characterization of major histocompatibility complex class I and class II genes from the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is currently threatened by an emerging wildlife disease, devil facial tumour disease. The disease is decreasing devil numbers dramatically and may lead to the extinction of the species. At present, nothing is known about the immune genes or basic immunology of the devil. In this study, we report the construction of the first genetic library for the Tasmanian devil, a spleen cDNA library, and the isolation of full-length MHC Class I and Class II genes. We describe six unique Class II β chain sequences from at least three loci, which belong to the marsupial Class II DA gene family. We have isolated 13 unique devil Class I sequences, representing at least seven Class I loci, two of which are most likely non-classical genes. The MHC Class I sequences from the devil have little heterogeneity, indicating recent divergence. The MHC genes described here are most likely involved in antigen presentation and are an important first step for studying MHC diversity and immune response in the devil.
KeywordsTasmanian devil Marsupial MHC Transmissible Tumour Conservation
We would like to thank Robert Johnson and Larry Vogelnest from Taronga zoo and Stephen Pyecroft from the Department of Primary Industry and Water, Tasmania for providing tissue samples. We would also like to thank Erin Noonan for performing DNA extractions on five individuals for polymorphism data. This work was funded by the Australian Research Council, the Sarah and Anne Payten Canine Cancer Fund and the Department of Primary Industry and Water.
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