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100 million years of multigene family evolution : Origin and evolution of the avian MHC class IIB

  • Julien Goebel
  • Marta Promerová
  • Francesco Bonadonna
  • Karen D. McCoy
  • Céline Serbielle
  • Maria Strandh
  • Glenn Yannic
  • Reto Burri
  • Luca Fumagalli
Publishing year: 2017-06-13
Language: English
Publication/Series: BMC Genomics
Volume: 18
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: BMC Genomics

Abstract english

Background: Gene duplication has led to a most remarkable adaptation involved in vertebrates' host-pathogen arms-race, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). However, MHC duplication history is as yet poorly understood in non-mammalian vertebrates, including birds. Results: Here, we provide evidence for the evolution of two ancient avian MHC class IIB (MHCIIB) lineages by a duplication event prior to the radiation of all extant birds >100 million years ago, and document the role of concerted evolution in eroding the footprints of the avian MHCIIB duplication history. Conclusions: Our results suggest that eroded footprints of gene duplication histories may mimic birth-death evolution and that in the avian MHC the presence of the two lineages may have been masked by elevated rates of concerted evolution in several taxa. Through the presence of a range of intermediate evolutionary stages along the homogenizing process of concerted evolution, the avian MHCIIB provides a remarkable illustration of the erosion of multigene family duplication history.


  • Genetics
  • Zoology
  • Birds
  • Birth-death evolution
  • Concerted evolution
  • Gene conversion
  • Gene duplication
  • Major histocompatibility complex
  • Recombination


  • ISSN: 1471-2164
Maria Strandh
E-mail: maria [dot] strandh [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 92 12



Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden