Author(s): de Groot NG, Otting N, Doxiadis GG, BallaJhagjhoorsingh SS, Heeney JL,
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Abstract MHC class I molecules play an essential role in the immune defense against intracellular infections. The hallmark of the MHC is its extensive degree of polymorphism at the population level. However, the present comparison of MHC class I gene intron variation revealed that chimpanzees have experienced a severe repertoire reduction at the orthologues of the HLA-A, -B, and -C loci. The loss of variability predates the (sub)speciation of chimpanzees and did not effect other known gene systems. Therefore the selective sweep in the MHC class I gene may have resulted from a widespread viral infection. Based on the present results and the fact that chimpanzees have a natural resistance to the development of AIDS, we hypothesize that the selective sweep was caused by the chimpanzee-derived simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz), the closest relative of HIV-1, or a closely related retrovirus. Hence, the contemporary chimpanzee populations represent the offspring of AIDS-resistant animals, the survivors of a HIV-like pandemic that took place in the distant past.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Air & Water Borne Diseases