A primate species with limited major histocompatibility complex class I polymorphism

D. I. Watkins, F. S. Hodi, N. L. Letvin

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51 Scopus citations


Extensive polymorphism at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is thought to confer immune protection on populations. A New World primate, the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus), has a high prevalence of ulcerative colitis and adenocarcinoma of the colon and dies after infection with several human viruses. Lymphocytes from all animals tested expressed one common MHC class I allelic product. Another MHC class I allelic product was expressed by 39 of 41 tested animals. Four other allelic products were also expressed on the lymphocytes of these animals at a frequency of >50%. MHC class II gene products, however, were polymorphic. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis confirmed that there were a limited number of cotton-top tamarin MHC class I alleles, whereas the MHC class II gene loci were polymorphic. This sharing of MHC class I alleles is unprecedented in a higher primate species and may play a role in the susceptibility of this endangered species to pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7714-7718
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

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