Rhesus macaque antibody molecules: sequences and heterogeneity of alpha and gamma constant regions


Dr Roberta Attanasio, Department of Biology, 402 Kell Hall, 24 Peachtree Center Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA. E-mail: rattanasio@gsu.edu


Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are extensively used in vaccine development. Macaques infected with simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) or simian-human immunodeficiency viruses (SHIV) are the best animal model currently available for acquired-immune-deficiency-syndrome-related studies. Recent results emphasize the importance of antibody responses in controlling HIV and SIV infection. Despite the increasing attention placed on humoral immunity in these models, very limited information is available on rhesus macaque antibody molecules. Therefore, we sequenced, cloned and characterized immunoglobulin gamma (IGHG) and alpha (IGHA) chain constant region genes from rhesus macaques of Indian and Chinese origin. Although it is currently thought that rhesus macaques express three IgG subclasses, we identified four IGHG genes, which were designated IGHG1, IGHG2, IGHG3 and IGHG4 on the basis of sequence similarities with the four human genes encoding the IgG1, IgG2, IgG3 and IgG4 subclasses. The four genes were expressed at least at the messenger RNA level, as demonstrated by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The level of intraspecies heterogeneity was very high for IGHA genes, whereas IGHG genes were remarkably similar in all animals examined. However, single amino acid substitutions were present in IGHG2 and IGHG4 genes, indicating the presence of IgG polymorphism possibly resulting in the expression of different allotypes. Two IgA alleles were identified in several animals and RT-PCR showed that both alleles may be expressed. Presence of immunoglobulin gene polymorphism appears to reflect the unusually high levels of intraspecies heterogeneity already demonstrated for major histocompatibility complex genes in this non-human primate species.