Rhesus macaque class I duplicon structures, organization, and evolution within the alpha block of the major histocompatibility complex

Mol Biol Evol. 2004 Nov;21(11):2079-91. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msh216. Epub 2004 Jul 21.


The alpha block of the human and chimpanzee major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genomic region contains 10 to 11 duplicated MHC class I genes, including the HLA/Patr-A, -G, and -F genes. In comparison, the alpha block of the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta, Mamu) has an additional 20 MHC class I genes within this orthologous region. The present study describes the identification and analysis of the duplicated segmental genomic structures (duplicons) and genomic markers within the alpha block of the rhesus macaque and their use to reconstruct the duplication history of the genes within this region. A variety of MHC class I genes, pseudogenes, transposons, and retrotransposons, such as Alu and ERV16, were used to categorize the 28 duplicons into four distinct structural categories. The phylogenetic relationship of MHC class I genes, Alu, and LTR16B sequences within the duplicons was examined by use of the Neighbor-Joining (NJ) method. Two single-duplicon tandem duplications, two polyduplicon tandem duplications with an accompanying inversion product per duplication, eight polyduplicon tandem duplications steps, 12 deletions, and at least two recombinations were reconstructed to explain the highly complex organization and evolution of the 28 duplicons (nine inversions) within the Mamu alpha block. On the basis of the phylogenetic evidence and the reconstructed tandem duplication history of the 28 duplicons, the Mamu/Patr/HLA-F ortholog was the first MHC class I gene to have been fixed without further duplication within the alpha block of primates. Assuming that the rhesus macaque and the chimpanzee/human lineages had started with the same number of MHC class I duplicons at the time of their divergence approximately 24 to 31 MYA, then the number of genes within the alpha block have been duplicated at an approximately three times greater rate in the rhesus macaque than in either the human or chimpanzee.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Exons
  • Genes, MHC Class I*
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Multigene Family
  • Mutation
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Phylogeny
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • HLA Antigens