Unparalleled Rapid Evolution of KIR Genes in Rhesus and Cynomolgus Macaque Populations

Jesse Bruijnesteijn, Nanine De Groot, Marit K. H. Van Der Wiel, Nel Otting, Annemiek J. M. De Vos-rouweler, Natasja G. De Groot, Ronald E. Bontrop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) modulate immune responses through interactions with MHC class I molecules. The KIR region in large cohorts of rhesus and cynomolgus macaque populations were characterized, and the experimental design enabled the definition of a considerable number of alleles (n = 576) and haplotypes, which are highly variable with regard to architecture. Although high levels of polymorphism were recorded, only a few alleles are shared between species and populations. The rapid evolution of allelic polymorphism, accumulated by point mutations, was further confirmed by the emergence of a novel KIR allele in a rhesus macaque family. In addition to allelic variation, abundant orthologous and species-specific KIR genes were identified, the latter of which are frequently generated by fusion events. The concerted action of both genetic mechanisms, in combination with differential selective pressures at the population level, resulted in the unparalleled rapid evolution of the KIR gene region in two closely related macaque species. The variation of the KIR gene repertoire at the species and population level might have an impact on the outcome of preclinical studies with macaque models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1770-1786
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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