Function of blood group antigens

Giovanni Maga maga at
Mon Jan 15 05:12:20 EST 1996

In article <4d8qtm$9k1 at>, iayork at (Ian A. York) wrote:

> The recent discussion on bionet.immunology on the number of blood group 
> antigens in different species has prompted the question, why do the 
> number of antigens vary so much from species to species?  That is, why 
> are cats happy to have 95% of the species bearing a single blood type, 
> while cattle have some 80 or so types?

> Anybody know?  Failing that, anybody have an interesting wild-assed guess?

What I can say is that domestic animals (cats, dogs) have a reduced
genetic polymorphism due to the high level of inbreds either artificial
(done by the breeders to select new nice pets) or natural (wild cats
communities for example usually have one dominant male that couples with
all the females of the group, often his own daughters). This is the reason
why it is extremely difficult to find out polymorphic probes for DNA
fingerprinting in these animals. This reduced pool of genes within the
population could have led to the fixation of a few alleles in the blood
antigens. The weak point is that also cattle are breeded artificially.
Maybe in case of cattle the breeding is controlled in order not to reduce
too much the genetic pool (that in turn could lead to poorer quality of
the cattle, reduced fertility etc.). This is just a wild-assed guess of
course. To test it, would be probably enough to know how many different
blood antigens dogs bear. (That I do not know. I do believe to recall that
in dogs there are less blood antigens available for testing than in
Glad to hear other explanations or confutation of my theory.

Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry
University of Zuerich-Irchel (CH)

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