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Journal Article

Advances in the evolutionary understanding of MHC polymorphism


Lenz,  Tobias L.
Emmy Noether Research Group Evolutionary Immunogenomics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Radwan, J., Babik, W., Kaufman, J., Lenz, T. L., & Winternitz, J. (2020). Advances in the evolutionary understanding of MHC polymorphism. Trends in Genetics, 36(4), 298-311. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2020.01.008.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-013E-4
Proteins encoded by the classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes incite the vertebrate adaptive immune response by presenting peptide antigens on the cell surface. Here, we review mechanisms explaining landmark features of these genes: extreme polymorphism, excess of nonsynonymous changes in peptide-binding domains, and long gene genealogies. Recent studies provide evidence that these features may arise due to pathogens evolving ways to evade immune response guided by the locally common MHC alleles. However, complexities of selection on MHC genes are simultaneously being revealed that need to be incorporated into existing theory. These include pathogen-driven selection for antigen-binding breadth and expansion of the MHC gene family, associated autoimmunity trade-offs, hitchhiking of deleterious mutations linked to the MHC, geographic subdivision, and adaptive introgression.