Comparative genomic analysis of two avian (quail and chicken) MHC regions

J Immunol. 2004 Jun 1;172(11):6751-63. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.172.11.6751.


We mapped two different quail Mhc haplotypes and sequenced one of them (haplotype A) for comparative genomic analysis with a previously sequenced haplotype of the chicken Mhc. The quail haplotype A spans 180 kb of genomic sequence, encoding a total of 41 genes compared with only 19 genes within the 92-kb chicken Mhc. Except for two gene families (B30 and tRNA), both species have the same basic set of gene family members that were previously described in the chicken "minimal essential" Mhc. The two Mhc regions have a similar overall organization but differ markedly in that the quail has an expanded number of duplicated genes with 7 class I, 10 class IIB, 4 NK, 6 lectin, and 8 B-G genes. Comparisons between the quail and chicken Mhc class I and class II gene sequences by phylogenetic analysis showed that they were more closely related within species than between species, suggesting that the quail Mhc genes were duplicated after the separation of these two species from their common ancestor. The proteins encoded by the NK and class I genes are known to interact as ligands and receptors, but unlike in the quail and the chicken, the genes encoding these proteins in mammals are found on different chromosomes. The finding of NK-like genes in the quail Mhc strongly suggests an evolutionary connection between the NK C-type lectin-like superfamily and the Mhc, providing support for future studies on the NK, lectin, class I, and class II interaction in birds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chickens / genetics
  • Chickens / immunology*
  • Genes, MHC Class I
  • Genes, MHC Class II
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome
  • Haplotypes
  • Introns
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Quail / genetics
  • Quail / immunology*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB078884