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Evolution of a new nonclassical MHC class I locus in two Old World primate species

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 HLA-G is a nonclassical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecule that is expressed only in the human placenta, suggesting that it plays an important role at the fetal-maternal interface. In rhesus monkeys, which have similar placentation to humans, the HLA-G orthologue is a pseudogene. However, rhesus monkeys express a novel placental MHC class I molecule, Mamu-AG, which has HLA-G-like characteristics. Phylogenetic analysis of AG alleles in two Old World primate species, the baboon and the rhesus macaque, revealed limited diversity characteristic of a nonclassical MHC class I locus. Gene trees constructed using classical and nonclassical primate MHC class I alleles demonstrated that the AG locus was most closely related to the classical A locus. Interestingly, gene tree analyses suggested that the AG alleles were most closely related to a subset of A alleles which are the products of an ancestral interlocus recombination event between the A and B loci. Calculation of the rates of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution at the AG locus revealed that positive selection was not acting on the codons encoding the peptide binding region. In exon 4, however, the rate of nonsynonymous substitution was significantly lower than the rate of synonymous substitution, suggesting that negative selection was acting on these codons.

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Received: 22 April 1998 / Revised: 15 July 1998

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Boyson, J., Iwanaga, K., Urvater, J. et al. Evolution of a new nonclassical MHC class I locus in two Old World primate species. Immunogenetics 49, 86–98 (1999).

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