Mhc-E polymorphism in Pongidae primates: the same allele is found in two different species

Tissue Antigens. 1997 Dec;50(6):695-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0039.1997.tb02938.x.


Mhc-E intron 1, exon 2, intron 2, and exon 3 from pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) have been sequenced; six new Mhc-E alleles have been obtained but sequence changes are only placed either in introns or in synonymous exonic bases. One pygmy chimpanzee Mhc-E DNA sequence is identical to another sequence from chimpanzee; the fact that no variation is found also at the intronic level suggests that these two species of chimpanzee may have recently separated and/or that both of them might only represent subspecies. Mhc-E phylogenetic trees separate two evolutionary groups: Pongidae, including humans, and Cercopithecinae; this is also found by studying another non-classical class I gene, Mhc-G. The Mhc-E alleles' invariance at the protein level supports that strong selective forces are operating at the Mhc-E locus, as has also been found in both Cercopithecinae and humans. These allelic and evolutionary data suggest an altogether different functionality for HLA-E (and also HLA-G) compared with classical class I proteins: i.e., sending negative (tolerogenic) signals to NK and T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Gorilla gorilla / genetics*
  • Gorilla gorilla / immunology
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Hominidae / genetics
  • Hominidae / immunology
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pan paniscus / genetics*
  • Pan paniscus / immunology
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics*
  • Pan troglodytes / immunology
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Pongo pygmaeus / genetics*
  • Pongo pygmaeus / immunology
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Complementary
  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-E antigen
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L77074
  • GENBANK/L77734
  • GENBANK/L77735
  • GENBANK/L77736
  • GENBANK/L77737
  • GENBANK/L78071