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Ovar-Mhc--ovine major histocompatibility complex: role in genetic resistance to diseases

Ovar-Mhc--ovine major histocompatibility complex: role in genetic resistance to diseases

New Zealand Veterinary Journal 54(4): 153-160

ISSN/ISBN: 0048-0169

PMID: 16915336

DOI: 10.1080/00480169.2006.36689

Research on the structure of the ovine major histocompatibility complex (MHC), Ovar-Mhc, and its association with resistance to various diseases in sheep has received increasing attention during recent years. The term 'resistance' is used to denote the capacity of an animal to defend itself against disease or to withstand the effects of a harmful environmental agent. The Ovar-Mhc is poorly characterised when compared to MHCs of other domestic animals. However, its basic structure is similar to that of other animals, comprising Class I, II and III regions. Products of the Class I and II genes, the histocompatibility molecules, are of paramount importance as these present antigens to T-lymphocytes, thereby eliciting immune responses. Several studies have been conducted in sheep on the involvement of MHC genes/antigens in genetic resistance to diseases, the majority being concerned with gastrointestinal nematodes. Studies on resistance to footrot, Johne's disease and bovine leukaemia virus (BLV)-induced leukaemogenesis have also been reported. Genes of all three regions were implicated in the disease association studies. In addition to disease resistance, Ovar-Mhc genes have been found to be associated with traits such as marbling and birthweight. The use of genetic markers from within the Ovar-Mhc may be useful, via marker-assisted selection, for increasing resistance to various diseases provided they do not impact negatively on other economically-important traits. This review summarises current knowledge of the role of Ovar-Mhc in genetic resistance to diseases in sheep.

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