MHC evolution in three salmonid species: a comparison between class II alpha and beta genes

Daniela Gomez, Pablo Conejeros, Sergio H. Marshall, Sonia Consuegra

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30 Citations (SciVal)


The genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are amongst the most variable in vertebrates and represent some of the best candidates to study processes of adaptive evolution. However, despite the number of studies available, most of the information on the structure and function of these genes come from studies in mammals and birds in which the MHC class I and II genes are tightly linked and class II alpha exhibits low variability in many cases. Teleost fishes are among the most primitive vertebrates with MHC and represent good organisms for the study of MHC evolution because their class I and class II loci are not physically linked, allowing for independent evolution of both classes of genes. We have compared the diversity and molecular mechanisms of evolution of classical MH class II α and class II β loci in farm populations of three salmonid species: Oncorhynchus kisutch, Oncorhynchus mykiss and Salmo salar. We found single classical class II loci and high polymorphism at both class II α and β genes in the three species. Mechanisms of evolution were common for both class II genes, with recombination and point mutation involved in generating diversity and positive selection acting on the peptidebinding residues. These results suggest that the maintenance of variability at the class IIα gene could be a mechanism to increase diversity in the MHC class II in salmonids in order to compensate for the expression of one single classical locus and to respond to a wider array of parasites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-542
Number of pages12
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2010


  • MHC class II
  • Adaptive evolution
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss
  • Oncorhynchus kisutch
  • Salmo salar


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