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MHC gene copy number variation in Tasmanian devils: implications for the spread of a contagious cancer


Siddle, HV and Marzec, J and Cheng, Y and Jones, M and Belov, K, MHC gene copy number variation in Tasmanian devils: implications for the spread of a contagious cancer, Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, 277, (1690) pp. 2001-2006 . ISSN 0962-8452 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2010 The Royal Society

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DOI: doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.2362


Tasmanian devils face extinction owing to the emergence of a contagious cancer. Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a clonal cancer spread owing to a lack of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) barriers in Tasmanian devil populations. We present a comprehensive screen of MHC diversity in devils and identify 25 MHC types and 53 novel sequences, but conclude that overall levels of MHC diver- sity at the sequence level are low. The majority of MHC Class I variation can be explained by allelic copy number variation with two to seven sequence variants identified per individual. MHC sequences are divided into two distinct groups based on sequence similarity. DFTD cells and most devils have sequences from both groups. Twenty per cent of individuals have a restricted MHC reper toire and con- tain only group I or only group II sequences. Counterintuitively, we postulate that the immune system of individuals with a restricted MHC repertoire may recognize foreign MHC antigens on the surface of the DFTD cell. The implication of these results for management of DFTD and this endangered species are discussed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Tasmanian devil; MHC; devil facial tumour disease; marsupial; cancer
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Microbiology
Research Field:Infectious agents
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments
UTAS Author:Jones, M (Professor Menna Jones)
ID Code:64721
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:93
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2010-08-18
Last Modified:2011-04-08
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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