Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) represent two salmonid genera separated for 15-20 million years. cDNA sequences were determined for the classical MHC class I heavy chain gene UBA and the MHC class II β-chain gene DAB from 15 rainbow and 10 brown trout. Both genes are highly polymorphic in both species and diploid in expression. The MHC class I alleles comprise several highly divergent lineages that are represented in both species and predate genera separation. The class II alleles are less divergent, highly species specific, and probably arose after genera separation. The striking difference in salmonid MHC class I and class II evolution contrasts with the situation in primates, where lineages of class II alleles have been sustained over longer periods of time relative to class I lineages. The difference may arise because salmonid MHC class I and II genes are not linked, whereas in mammals they are closely linked. A prevalent mechanism for evolving new MHC class I alleles in salmonids is recombination in intron II that shuffles α1 and α2 domains into different combinations.
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