The only avian major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) genes thus far identified are from species of the relatively small order of Galliformes, while by far the largest order of Passeriformes (songbirds), containing some 60% of extant bird species, has not been studied at all in this regard. The Galliformes emerged more than 55 million years (my) ago, the Passeriformes some 25 my ago. Because of the potential for the use of Mhc genes as markers in the study of songbird populations, an attempt was made to clone class II B genes of a passeriform species, the Bangalese finch Lonchura striata acuticauda. Using a set of primers designed on the basis of known sequences, a probe corresponding to part of exon II was obtained by the polymerase chain reaction. The probe was then used to screen a Bengalese finch cDNA library and to isolate and sequence two nearly full-length clones. The sequences reveal the presence of one presumably functional class II B locus in this bird species.
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