The mole-rat, Spalax ehrenbergi, is a complex subterranean rodent species whose habitat is restricted largely to the Middle East and North Africa. We typed over 50 mole-rats with mouse monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies specific for class I and class II major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) molecules. Some of these antibodies were produced against mouse Mhc molecules, others against Mhc molecules of other species. About 25% of the antibodies reacted with mole-rat lymphocytes in the cytotoxic test. Some of the serologically positive antibodies precipitated from a glycoprotein pool of mole-rat spleen cell molecules that corresponded in size with class I and class II molecules of other species. We conclude, therefore, that mole-rats, like other mammals, possess the Mhc which consists of class I and class 11 loci. We call this Mhc Spalax major histocompatibility (Smh) complex. The occurrence of a large number of different serotypes among the tested animals suggests that Smh loci are polymorphic. This Mhc polymorphism of the mole-rat contrasts with the monomorphism or oligomorphism of the Syrian hamster, a rodent with a similar ecology. Thus far no qualitative correlation could be found between Smh polymorphism and chromosome variation described in this superspecies.
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