Genetic characterization of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) in Nepal



Indian-origin rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) have long served as an animal model for the study of human disease and behavior. Given the current shortage of Indian-origin rhesus, many researchers have turned to rhesus macaques from China as a substitute. However, a number of studies have identified marked genetic differences between the Chinese and Indian animals. We investigated the genetic characteristics of a third rhesus population, the rhesus macaques of Nepal. Twenty-one rhesus macaques at the Swoyambhu Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, were compared with more than 300 Indian- and Chinese-origin rhesus macaques. The sequence analyses of two mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) loci, from the HVS I and 12 S rRNA regions, showed that the Nepali animals were more similar to Indian-origin than to Chinese-origin animals. The distribution of alleles at 24 short tandem repeat (STR) loci distributed across 17 chromosomes also showed greater similarity between the Nepali and Indian-origin animals. Finally, an analysis of seven major histocompatibility complex (MHC) alleles showed that the Nepali animals expressed Class I alleles that are common to Indian-origin animals, including Mamu-A*01. All of these analyses also revealed a low level of genetic diversity within this Nepali rhesus sample. We conclude that the rhesus macaques of Nepal more closely resemble rhesus macaques of Indian origin than those of Chinese origin. As such, the Nepali rhesus may offer an additional resource option for researchers who wish to maintain research protocols with animals that possess key genetic features characteristic of Indian-origin rhesus macaques. Am. J. Primatol. 68:1–11, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.