Trans-specific evolution of allelic polymorphism at the major histocompatibility complex loci has been demonstrated in a number of species. Estimating the substitution rates and the age of trans-specifically evolving alleles requires detailed information about the alleles in related species. We provide such information for the chimpanzee DRB genes. DNA fragments encompassing exon 2 were amplified in vitro from genomic DNA of ten chimpanzees. The nucleotide sequences were determined and their relationship to the human DRB alleles was evaluated. The alleles were classified according to their positioni in dendrograms and the presence of lineage-specific motifs. Twenty alleles were found at the expressed loci Patr-DRB1,-DRB3, -DRB4, -DRB5, and at the pseudogenes Patr-DRB6, -DRB7; of these, 13 are new alleles. Two other chimpanzee sequences were classified as members of a new lineage tentatively designated DRBX. Chimpanzee counterparts of HLA-DRB1*01 and *04 were not detected. The number of alleles found at individual loci indicates asymmetrical distribution of polymorphism between humans and chimpanzees. Estimations of intra-lineage divergence times suggest that the lineages are more than 30 million year old. Predictions of major chimpanzee DRB haplotypes are made.
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