Fascinating about classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules is their polymorphism. The present study is a review and discussion of the fish MHC situation. The basic pattern of MHC variation in fish is similar to mammals, with MHC class I versus class II, and polymorphic classical versus nonpolymorphic nonclassical. However, in many or all teleost fishes, important differences with mammalian or human MHC were observed: (1) The allelic/haplotype diversification levels of classical MHC class I tend to be much higher than in mammals and involve structural positions within but also outside the peptide binding groove; (2) Teleost fish classical MHC class I and class II loci are not linked. The present article summarizes previous studies that performed quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis for mapping differences in teleost fish disease resistance, and discusses them from MHC point of view. Overall, those QTL studies suggest the possible importance of genomic regions including classical MHC class II and nonclassical MHC class I genes, whereas similar observations were not made for the genomic regions with the highly diversified classical MHC class I alleles. It must be concluded that despite decades of knowing MHC polymorphism in jawed vertebrate species including fish, firm conclusions (as opposed to appealing hypotheses) on the reasons for MHC polymorphism cannot be made, and that the types of polymorphism observed in fish may not be explained by disease-resistance models alone.
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