Beth Drake

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Briles, W. Elwood

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


Major histocompatibility complex; Bobwhite--Genetics


The major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) is a group of genetic loci containing genes which code for cell surface molecules whose function is to provide a context for antigen presentation to T lymphocytes. The Mhc has been identified in all vertebrates studied including 4 species of birds: the chicken, the ring-necked pheasant, the sandhill crane and the Bengalese finch. Based on this information, it has become apparent that the organization of the avian Mhc is substantially different from that of the mammal Mhc. The chicken Mhc is by far the best understood of the avian species and the characterization of the Mhc of non-chicken avian species is necessary to answering evolutionary questions about the divergence of birds and mammals. The Mhc has been shown in chickens and various mammal species to be associated with disease resistance, livability, productivity and mate selection. These associations between Mhc haplotypes and certain aspects of fitness suggest that genetic characterization of the Mhc may be important in captive breeding programs of endangered species. Because of the protected status of endangered species, it is often difficult to use these animals in invasive research and thus the use of closely related species as models may be appropriate. This study involved the genetic characterization of the Mhc of the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). The goal was to characterize the haplotypes of the northern bobwhite Mhc using alloantisera created in the northern bobwhite. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) was used to confirm that the identified blood group system was the Mhc. These alloantisera would later be used to identify Mhc haplotypes of a subspecies, the masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) which is endemic to the U.S. desert southwest (results of this work are now in press). At least 12 Mhc haplotypes were identified in this population of northern bobwhites using a combination of both alloantisera and RFLP.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [54]-58)


vi, 58 pages




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