The class II region of the human major histocompatibility complex (HLA) is made up of three major subregions designated DR, DQ, and DP. With the aim of gaining an insight into the evolution and stability of DR haplotypes, a total of 63 cosmid clones were isolated from the DR subregion (Gogo-DR) of a western lowland gorilla. All but one of these cosmid clones were found to fall into two clusters. The larger cluster, A, was defined by 41 overlapping cosmid clones and contained a DRB gene segment made up of exons 4 through 6 and four DRB genes, designated Gogo-DRB6, Gogo-DRB5*01, Gogo-DRB8, and Gogo-DRB3*01. The total length of this cluster was ∼ 180 kb. The second cluster, B, encompassed a contiguous DNA stretch of ∼ 145 kb and was composed of 21 overlapping cosmid clones. Cluster B contained three DRB genes, designated Gogo-DRB1*08, Gogo-DRB2, and Gogo-DRB3*02. One cosmid clone (WP1-9) containing a DRB pseudogene could not be linked to either cluster A or B. Neither the organization of cluster A nor that of cluster B was identical to that of known HLA-DR haplotypes. However, two gorilla DRB genes, Gogo-DRB6 and Gogo-DRB5*01, the human counterparts of which are linked in the HLA-DR2 haplotype, were found to be located next to each other in cluster A. The arrangement of the Gogo-DRB genes in cluster B, which is presumed to be the gorilla DR8 haplotype, was similar to that of HLA-DR3/DR5/DR6 haplotypes and to that of the presumed ancestral HLA-DR8 haplotype. These results demonstrate that certain combinations of DRB genes have been maintained since the time before the divergence of human and gorilla lineages more than 5 million years ago.
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