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Intronic sequence motifs of HLA-DQB1 are shared between humans, apes and old world monkeys, but a retroviral LTR element (DQLTR3) is human specific


Correspondence to:Horst Donner
Center of Internal Medicine
Medical Department I
Division of Endocrinology
University Hospital
Theodor-Stern-Kai 7
D-60590 Frankfurt/Main
Tel: +49 69 6301 7327
Fax: +49 69 6301 6405


Long terminal repeats (LTRs) of the human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) family have been found at several sites within the human genome, of which one is located in the vicinity of HLA-DQB1. Since this DQLTR3 is only present on some haplotypes, we performed a linkage analysis in 130 Caucasian families. In order to date the integration event we also investigated the presence of this DQLTR3 in apes and old world monkeys. Additionally, we sequenced the adjacent region of DQLTR3-positive and -negative haplotypes in humans, apes and old world monkeys to elucidate their evolution. Linkage analysis revealed a differential integration of DQLTR3 on specific HLA-DQ haploypes: there was a high frequency of this LTR on haplotypes containing HLA-DQB1*0302 (0.96) and a moderate frequency on HLA-DQB1*0402 (0.78), HLA-DQB1*0303 (0.44), HLA-DQB1*0502 (0.38) and HLA-DQB1*0301 (0.35). HLA-DQB1*0201 (0.18), HLA-DQB1*0503 (0.15), HLA-DQB1*0603 (0.15), HLA-DQB1*0602 (0.04), HLA-DQB1*0501 (0.03) and HLA-DQB1*0604 were rarely positive or devoid of DQLTR3. In apes and old world primates there was no DQLTR3 rendering it a human specific insertion. Sequence analysis of the adjacent region showed two different motifs in humans corresponding to either presence or absence of DQLTR3. Two different motifs were observed within three sequences of Macaca mulatta: One motif is closely related to the sequence from Macaca nemestrina and Macaca fascicularis whereas the other sequence is more closely related with that of Papio papio and Cercopithecus aethiops. Therefore the analysis of retroviral elements as well as intronic sequences of MHC-DQB1 could help to clarify the evolution of this gene region as well the phylogenic relationship between humans, apes and old world monkeys.