HLA complex and its significancein biology and medicine

Histocompatibility molecules are genetically determined proteins present in membranes of all nucleated cells. They form a unique system for which the term “Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)” was coined. Each vertebrate species is characterised by its own MHC; that of humans has an abbreviation HLA. This acronym is derived from the words: “human leucocyte antigens” as its fist molecules were discovered in membranes of leucocytes.

The genetic region of the HLA complex is located on the short arm of chromosome 6 (6p21.3) and occupies a large segment of DNA, extending about 3,600 kb, i.e., in classical terms 3.6 cM. It is a region of highly polymorphic genes that form separate gene clusters, class I (telomeric) and class II (centromeric). These two regions are separated by another cluster of unrelated genes, which are called class III genes.

The HLA complex is of paramount importance for our life. HLA molecules impart us biological uniqueness and individuality, they mediate presentation of antigens to T cells, are involved in cooperation of cells o the immune system and are indispensable for tolerance induction. Clinical medicine profits from our knowledge on HLA complex is various fields esp. in organ and tissue transplantations, associations with diseases, mostly autoimmune, and in paternity disputes.

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 HLA complex and its significance in biology and medicine 16.3.2012 5.08 MB registered user