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The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a key player in the regulation of immune responses through presenting foreign antigens to T lymphocytes. In this study, three MHC genes, namely, MHC I α, II α, II β and the II invariant chain (Ii), were identified and characterized in the critically endangered Dabry's sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus). A tissue distribution study showed that the MHC and Ii transcripts were widely expressed in various tissues. The highest expression levels of MHC I α, II α and Ii were found in the gill, while MHC II β was primarily expressed in the spleen. Challenge of A. dabryanus with a pathogenic bacterium in vivo resulted in significant upregulation of both MHC and Ii expression, indicating potential roles of these genes in immune response. Phylogenetic analysis showed that A. dabryanus MHC grouped with other teleost MHC genes and sequences from Polyodon spathula and A. dabryanus had an intermingling of alleles. According to the split time between paddlefishes and sturgeons, this result indicated that trans-species MHC lineages in Chondrostei were much older than those in tetrapods. The molecular polymorphisms of the complete open reading frame regions of the MHC genes were analysed in several A. dabryanus individuals. MHC II α and II β were highly polymorphic in different individuals, while MHC I α was more conserved. The ratio of non-synonymous substitution occurred at a significantly higher frequency than synonymous substitution in peptide-binding regions (PBR) of MHC II α and II β, demonstrating the existence of positive selection at peptide-binding sites. Our study suggested potential roles of the MHC chains in immune response to pathogen microbial infection, and the numerous alleles identified in this study will help further genetic management and molecular marker-assisted selective breeding programmes in A. dabryanus.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Developmental and comparative immunology
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