Approximately 300 kb of DNA from the rabbit major histocompatibility complex class II region has been cloned from two genomic libraries. Four alpha chain genes and ten beta chain genes were identified in the recombinant phage and cosmid clones by hybridization with human class II cDNA probes. These genes were classified into three subregions (R-DP, R-DQ, and R-DR) based on hybridization analyses with human DP, DQ, and DR subregion genes under stringent conditions. Two alpha genes and one beta gene were assigned to the R-DP subregion, one alpha gene and one beta gene to the R-DQ subregion, and one alpha gene and eight beta genes to the R-DR subregion. In each subregion, the alpha gene and at least one beta gene were closely linked and were oriented in a manner similar to those in the homologous subregions of human and mouse. A combination of cloning data and genomic blot analyses indicated that the rabbit genome contains a minimum of four alpha-chain genes. The results suggested that there has been evolutionary conservation of the subunit organization of the alpha- and beta-chain genes as well as the coding sequences of these genes and that the mammalian ancestor possessed three distinct MHC class II subregions before diversification of human, mouse, and rabbit.

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