Molecular and immunogenetic analysis of major histocompatibility haplotypes in northern bobwhite enable direct identification of corresponding haplotypes in an endangered subspecies, the masked bobwhite

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Beth M. Drake, Ronald M. Goto, Marcia M. Miller, George F. Gee, W. Elwood Briles
Zoo Biology
Inc., John Wiley & Sons
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Abstract 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2361(1999)18:4<279::AID-ZOO3>3.3.CO;2-Q The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a group of genetic loci coding for haplotypes that have been associated with fitness traits in mammals and birds. Such associations suggest that MHC diversity may be an indicator of overall genetic fitness of endangered or threatened species. The MHC haplotypes of a captive population of 12 families of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) were identified using a combination of immunogenetic and molecular techniques. Alloantisera were produced within families of northern bobwhites and were then tested for differential agglutination of erythrocytes of all members of each family. The pattern of reactions determined from testing these alloantisera identified a single genetic system of alloantigens in the northern bobwhites, resulting in the assignment of a tentative genotype to each individual within the quail families. Restriction fragment patterns of the DNA of each bird were determined using the chicken MHC B-G cDNA probe bg11. The concordance between the restriction fragment patterns and the alloantisera reactions showed that the alloantisera had identified the MHC of the northern bobwhite and supported the tentative genotype assignments, identifying at least 12 northern bobwhite MHC haplotypes. Eighteen northern bobwhite alloantisera were then used to detect a minimum of 17 masked bobwhite MHC haplotypes. Subsequent restriction fragment pattern analyses using cDNA probes for chicken MHC genes were in agreement with agglutination patterns displayed by the antisera, showing that the immunogenetically identified alloantigen system constituted the MHC of the masked bobwhite. These data demonstrate that a non-endangered species may be used to provide antisera for differentiating MHC haplotypes in a closely related endangered species, thus providing a practical basis for long-range monitoring of MHC haplotypes of birds surviving in their native habitats. Zoo Biol 18:279–294, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


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