The HLA-E locus is characterized by limited polymorphism and low levels of cell surface expression. However, the function of the products of this nonclassical MHC class I gene remains unknown. To evaluate the conservation of the MHC-E locus throughout anthropoid primate evolution, we identified the homologue of the HLA-E locus in six different New World monkey species. Full- length sequencing of MHC-E cDNAs in four unrelated cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) revealed no evidence for polymorphism. Using the PCR, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, and direct sequencing, we also identified MHC-E alleles in five other New World monkey species, representing all extant platyrrhine families. In contrast to all other classical and nonclassical MHC class I genes in primates, the rate of synonymous nucleotide substitution is much greater than the rate of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution within exons 2 and 3 encoding the peptide binding region (PBR) in MHC-E genes. The PBR of the MHC-E molecule, therefore, has evolved under purifying selective pressures, and the very unusual evolutionary history of this ancient gene provides further evidence that the products of the HLA-E locus serve a critical immunological function. Given the remarkable conservation of the PBR during primate evolution, this critical immunological function is probably related to the peptide binding ability of the MHC-E protein.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|State||Published - Jan 1 1998|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy