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Convergent evolution of major histocompatibility complex molecules in humans and New World monkeys


  In both Old World and New World monkeys Mhc-DRB sequences have been found which resemble human DRB1*03 and DRB3 genes in their second exon. The resemblance is shared sequence motifs and clustering of the genes or the encoded proteins in phylogenetic trees. This similarity could be due to common ancestry, convergence at the molecular level, or chance. To test which of these three explanations applies, we sequenced segments of New World monkey and macaque genes which encompass the entire second exon and large parts of both flanking introns. The test strongly supports the monophyly of New World monkey DRB intron sequences. The phylogenies of introns 1 and 2 from DRB1*03-like and DRB3-like genes are congruent, but both are incongruent with the exon 2-based phylogeny. The matching of intron 1- and intron 2-based phylogenies with each other suggests that reciprocal recombination has not played a major role in exon 2 evolution. Statistical comparisons of exon 2 from different DRB1*03 and DRB3 lineages indicate that it was neither gene conversion (descent), nor chance, but molecular convergence that has shaped their characteristic motifs. The demonstration of convergence in anthropoid Mhc-DRB genes has implications for the classification, age, and mechanism of generation of DRB allelic lineages.

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Received: 30 August 1999 / Revised: 19 October 1999

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Kriener, K., O'hUigin, C., Tichy, H. et al. Convergent evolution of major histocompatibility complex molecules in humans and New World monkeys. Immunogenetics 51, 169–178 (2000).

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  • Key words Molecular convergence
  • New World monkeys
  • Major histocompatibility complex evolution
  • Gene conversion