In terms of number of species, perciform (perch-like) fishes are one of the most diversified groups of modern vertebrates. Within this group, the family Cichlidae is best known for its spectacular adaptive radiation in the great lakes of East Africa. The molecular tool kit used in the study of this radiation includes the major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) genes. To refine this tool, information about the organization of the Mhc regions is badly needed. In this study, the first step was taken toward providing such information for the Mhc class one regions of Oreochromis niloticus, a representative species of the tilapiine branch of the Cichlidae, for which good bacterial artificial chromosome library is available. Screening of the library with class I gene probes led to the identification and isolation of 31 class-I-positive clones. Sequencing of one of these clones and partial characterization of the remaining clones for the presence of class I exons resulted in the construction of two contigs representing the class I region of this species as well as identification of seven additional class-I-positive singleton clones. The O. niloticus genome was shown to contain at least 28 class I genes or gene fragments. The shorter of the two contigs was approximately 330 kb long and contained eight class I genes/gene fragments; the longer contig encompassed 1,200 kb of sequence and contained minimally 17 class I genes/gene fragments; three additional class I genes were found to be borne by a clone that might be part of the shorter contig.
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