Gene products of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of human and non-human primates play a crucial role in adaptive immunity, and most of the relevant genes not only show a high degree of variability (polymorphism) but also copy number variation (CNV) is observed. Due to this diversity, MHC proteins influence the capability of individuals to cope with various pathogens. MHC and/or MHC-linked gene products such as odorant receptor genes are thought to influence mate choice and reproductive success. Therefore, MHC typing of wild and captive primate populations is considered to be useful in conservation biology, which is, however, often hampered by the need of invasive and time-consuming methods. All intact Mhc-DRB genes in primates appear to possess a complex and highly divergent microsatellite, DRB-STR. A panel of 154 pedigreed olive baboons (Papio anubis) was examined for their DRB content by DRB-STR analysis of genomic DNA. Using the same methodology on DNA of feces samples, DRB variability of a silvery gibbon population (Hylobates moloch) (N = 24), an endangered species, could successfully be studied. In both species, length determination of the DRB-STR resulted in the definition of unique genotyping patterns that appeared to be specific for a certain chromosome. Moreover, the different STR lengths were shown to segregate with the allelic variation of the respective gene. The results obtained expand data gained previously on DRB-STR typing in macaques, great apes, and humans and strengthen the conclusion that this protocol is applicable in molecular ecology, conservation biology, and colony management, especially of endangered primate species.
Keywords: Conservation biology; MHC; Microsatellites; Pre-clinical research; Primates.