Haplessly Hoping: Macaque Major Histocompatibility Complex Made Easy

ILAR J. 2013;54(2):196-210. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilt036.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene products control the repertoire of T cell responses that an individual may create against pathogens and foreign tissues. This text will review the current understanding of MHC genetics in nonhuman primates, with a focus on Mauritian-origin cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and Indian-origin rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). These closely related macaque species provide important experimental models for studies of infectious disease pathogenesis, vaccine development, and transplantation research. Recent advances resulting from the application of several cost effective, high-throughput approaches, with deep sequencing technologies have revolutionized our ability to perform MHC genotyping of large macaque cohorts. Pyrosequencing of cDNA amplicons with a Roche/454 GS Junior instrument, provides excellent resolution of MHC class I allelic variants with semi-quantitative estimates of relative levels of transcript abundance. Introduction of the Illumina MiSeq platform significantly increased the sample throughput, since the sample loading workflow is considerably less labor intensive, and each instrument run yields approximately 100-fold more sequence data. Extension of these sequencing methods from cDNA to genomic DNA amplicons further streamlines the experimental workflow and opened opportunities for retrospective MHC genotyping of banked DNA samples. To facilitate the reporting of MHC genotypes, and comparisons between groups of macaques, this text also introduces an intuitive series of abbreviated rhesus MHC haplotype designations based on a major Mamu-A or Mamu-B transcript characteristic for ancestral allele combinations. The authors believe that the use of MHC-defined macaques promises to improve the reproducibility, and predictability of results from pre-clinical studies for translation to humans.

Keywords: Macaca fascicularis; Macaca mulatta; cynomolgus; haplotype; macaque; major histocompatibility complex; pyrosequencing; rhesus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Haplotypes / genetics*
  • Haplotypes / immunology
  • Macaca / genetics*
  • Macaca / immunology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics*
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / immunology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / instrumentation
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / veterinary*