Genetic variation in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is directly correlated to differences in disease resistance. Immunity is greatly dependent on highly polymorphic genes in the MHC, such as class I, class II, and class III complement genes. Preliminary studies of wild turkey populations show extreme polymorphisms in a family of genes exclusive to the avian MHC, the class IV or B-G genes. Significance of this variation is unclear as there are few and conflicting studies of the expression of these genes. Confounding understanding of B-G variation is the lack of a complete delineation of the number of loci in the turkey genome. Direct 454 sequencing of a clone from the CHORI-260 BAC library was used to extend the turkey MHC B-locus sequence, identifying five additional complete B-locus genes including two B-G loci. Sequences of the new B-G genes were compared with those of other turkey gene (BG1-3) and sequences available for other galliformes. Phylogenetic analysis shows species-specific gene evolution supporting a birth-death model of evolution for the B-G gene family. Analysis of variation within the signal peptide sequence (exon 1) found two clusters of polymorphism among the turkey B-G genes. Resequencing of exon 1 in a diverse sample including wild, heritage, and commercial turkeys confirmed multiple alleles at each B-G gene. Future studies aim to correlate B-G variation with group and individual immunological differences.
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Acknowledgments We thank Zheng Jin Tu of the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for the computational assistance. This research was supported by a grant from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2009-35205-05302); MMB was supported in part by a USDA training grant in Microbial and Animal Health Genomics (2006-38411-17096).
- B-G genes