A previously undescribed subfamily of mouse class I MHC genes, consisting of two to three members, has been identified. The structure and organization of one of these, Mb1, has been determined. Mb1, consists of five exons with open reading frames and potentially encodes a class I-like transmembrane protein. In the genome, Mb1 is linked to the H-2 complex, mapping telomeric to Qa. However, this gene has low (ca. 60%) nucleotide identity with other class I sequences and is no more related to mouse class I genes than to class I genes from other species. Mb1 transcripts have not been found in a variety of adult tissues or cell lines, suggesting that, if Mb1 is expressed, its expression is highly regulated. From DNA sequence identity and intron-exon organization, Mb1 appears to be a primordial gene which antedates mouse speciation and which has evolved independently of the rest of the class I gene family. Examination of various species of wild mice demonstrates the presence of a discrete Mb1 subfamily over long evolutionary periods of time.
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