Bats are natural hosts to numerous viruses and have ancient origins, having diverged from other eutherian mammals early in evolution. These characteristics place them in an important position to provide insights into the evolution of the mammalian immune system and antiviral immunity. We describe the first detailed partial map of a bat (Pteropus alecto) MHC-I region with comparative analysis of the MHC-I region and genes. The bat MHC-I region is highly condensed, yet relatively conserved in organisation, and is unusual in that MHC-I genes are present within only one of the three highly conserved class I duplication blocks. We hypothesise that MHC-I genes first originated in the ß duplication block, and subsequently duplicated in a step-wise manner across the MHC-I region during mammalian evolution. Furthermore, bat MHC-I genes contain unique insertions within their peptide-binding grooves potentially affecting the peptide repertoire presented to T cells, which may have implications for the ability of bats to control infection without overt disease.
Ng, J., Tachedjian, M., DEAKIN, J., Wynne, J. W., Cui, J., Haring, V. R., ... Baker, M. L. (2016). Evolution and comparative analysis of the bat MHC-I region. Scientific Reports, 6(Online), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep21256