The two infraorders of anthropoid primates, Platyrrhini (New World monkeys) and Catarrhini (Old World monkeys and the hominoids) are estimated to have diverged from a common ancestor 37 million years ago. The major histocompatibility complex class II DRB gene and haplotype polymorphism of the Catarrhini has been characterized in several recent studies. The present study was undertaken to obtain information on the DRB polymorphism of the Platyrrhini. Fifty-five complete exon 2 DRB sequences were obtained from six species of Platyrrhini representing both the Callitrichidae and the Cebidae families. Combined with the results of a parallel contig mapping study, our data indicate that at least three loci (DRB1*03, DRB3, and DRB5) are shared by the Catarrhini and the Platyrrhini. However, the three loci are occupied by functional genes in the former infraorder and mostly by pseudogenes in the latter. Instead of the pseudogenes, the Platyrrhini have evolved a new set of apparently functional genes - DRB11 and DRB*W12 through DRB*W19, which have thus far not been found in the Catarrhini. The DRB*W13, *W14, *W15, *W17, *W18, and *W19 genes seem to be restricted to the Cebidae family, whereas the DRB*W16 locus has so far been documented in the Callitrichidae family only. The DRB alleles of the cotton-top tamarin, and perhaps also those of the common marmoset (both members of the family Callitrichidae), are characterized by low nucleotide diversity, possibly indicating that they diverged from a common ancestral gene relatively recently.
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