Chimpanzees experienced a reduction of the allelic repertoire at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I A and B loci, which may have been caused by a retrovirus belonging to the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) family. Extended MHC haplotypes were defined in a pedigreed chimpanzee colony. Comparison of genetic variation at microsatellite markers mapping inside and outside the Mhc region was carried out in humans and chimpanzees to investigate the genomic extent of the repertoire reduction. Multilocus demographic analyses underscored that chimpanzees indeed experienced a selective sweep that mainly targeted the chromosomal segment carrying the Mhc class I region. Probably due to genetic linkage, the sweep also affected other polymorphic loci, mapping in the close vicinity of the Mhc class I region genes. Nevertheless, although the allelic repertoire at particular Mhc class I and II loci appears to be limited, naturally occurring recombination events allowed the establishment of haplotype diversity after the sweep. However, recombination did not have sufficient time to erase the signal of the selective sweep.