The mammalian major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) consists of three closely linked regions, I, II, and III, occupying a single chromosomal segment. The class I loci in region I and the class II loci in region II are related in their structure, function, and evolution. Region III, which is intercalated between regions I and II, contains loci unrelated to the class I and II loci, and to one another. There are indications that a similar Mhc organization exists in birds and amphibians. Here, we demonstrate that in the zebrafish (Danio rerio), a representative of the teleost fishes, the class II loci are divided between two linkage groups which are distinct from the linkage group containing the class I loci. The β2-microglobulin-encoding gene is loosely linked to one of the class II loci. The gene coding for complement factor B, which is one of the region III genes in mammals, is linked neither to the class I nor to the class II loci in the zebrafish. These results, combined with preliminary data suggesting that the class I and class II regions in another order of teleost fish are also in different linkage groups, indicate that close linkage of the two regions is not necessary either for regulation of expression or for co-evolution of the class I and class II loci. They also raise the question of whether linkage of the class I and class II loci in tetrapods is a primitive or derived character.
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