Two different primate species express an identical functional MHC class I allele

David T. Evans, Marian S. Piekarczyk, Luis Cadavid, Virginia S. Hinshaw, David I. Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The products of the highly polymorphic and variable major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I loci play a crucial role in host defenses against infectious disease. While similar alleles have been found in closely related species, sharing of a functional MHC class I allele between two species has never been reported. Here we show that an identical functional MHC class I molecule is present in two different primate species with an approximate divergence time of 0.7 million years. Lymphocytes from the red-crested tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi) expressed an MHC class I allele (Sage-G*01) that was identical in coding sequence to an MHC class I allele (Sage-G*08) found in the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). Furthermore, influenza virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) generated in the cotton-top tamarin killed lymphocytes expressing the influenza virus nucleoprotein (NP) from the red-crested tamarin. Since the influenza virus NP epitope is bound by Sage-G*08 in the cotton-top tamarin, it is likely that this molecule is functional in both species. These data provide the first evidence that functional MHC class I molecules can be maintained entirely intact in two separate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-211
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cotton-top tamarin
  • Cytotoxic T lymphocytes
  • Influenza
  • MHC class I
  • New World Primates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Genetics


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