The evolution of polymorphism at loci encoding the beta-chains of the MHC class II DR Ag was studied in primates by DNA amplification (polymerase chain reaction). Phylogenetic analysis of 63 DRB sequences from the polymorphic second exon (first domain) of nonhuman primates and 53 human sequences indicates the presence of five DRB loci in primates, derived from a DRB1-like ancestral locus over 20 million yr ago. Many of the allelic types at the DRB1 locus predate the divergence of hominoids (5 million yr ago) and some (DR4, DR3, 5, 6) predate the divergence of Old world monkeys and hominoids (20 million yr ago). The DRB3 locus appears to have arisen before the divergence of hominoids on an ancestral DRB1 lineage. The DRB2 and DRB5 loci were generated more than 20 million yr ago and the DRB4 locus more than 5 million yr ago. The DRB2 locus, a pseudogene in humans, is polymorphic in the nonhuman primates.

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