Sequence convergence in the peptide-binding region of primate and rodent MHC class Ib molecules

Meredith Yeager, Sudhir Kumar, Austin L. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In addition to the universally expressed and highly polymorphic class Ia genes, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of placental mammals includes class Ib genes that are characterized by restricted expression and low levels of sequence polymorphism. The functional importance of class lb genes as well as their actual function has long been controversial. Phylogenetic analyses have suggested that there are no orthologous relationships among class Ib loci of mammals belonging to different orders, suggesting that these loci have evolved independently since the placental mammals diverged. Here, we present evidence of convergent evolution at the molecular sequence level in the putative peptide-binding regions (PBRs) of human and mouse class Ib genes. So far, there are few if any convincing examples of convergent evolution at the amino acid sequence level, and such evolution is believed to be likely to occur only as a result of strong positive selection. Because the present case involves the functionally important PBR and because the primate and rodent molecules are known to bind similar peptides, this study represents both a convincing case of molecular- level convergence and evidence that MHC class Ib molecules, although not orthologous, may evolve similar functions convergently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1041
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Convergent evolution
  • HLA-E
  • MHC class Ib
  • Peptide binding
  • Positive selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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