Microsatellite variation in the equine MHC.
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Genes within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encode proteins involved in innate and adaptive immune responses. Genetic variation in this region can influence the immune response of an individual animal to challenges from a variety of pathogens; however, a complete documentation of genetic variation in the MHC is lacking for most domestic animals, including horses. To provide additional genetic markers for study of the horse MHC, or ELA (equine lymphocyte antigen), we identified 37 polymorphic microsatellite repeats in ELA and used these variations separately and together with published SNPs to investigate linkage disequilibrium (LD) and haplotype structure in a sample of Thoroughbred horses. ELA SNPs alone detected little LD, but microsatellites, either separately or combined with SNPs, revealed substantially more LD. A subset of markers in very high LD across the breadth of ELA may be predictive of structural polymorphisms or linked epistases that are important drivers of haplotype structure in Thoroughbreds.