Open Access Open Badges Research article

Characterization of killer immunoglobulin-like receptor genetics and comprehensive genotyping by pyrosequencing in rhesus macaques

Anna J Moreland1, Lisbeth A Guethlein2, R Keith Reeves3, Karl W Broman4, R Paul Johnson3, Peter Parham2, David H O'Connor15 and Benjamin N Bimber5*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

2 Departments of Structural Biology and Microbiology & Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

3 Division of Immunology, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, MA 01772, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

5 Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:295  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-295

Published: 7 June 2011



Human killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) play a critical role in governing the immune response to neoplastic and infectious disease. Rhesus macaques serve as important animal models for many human diseases in which KIRs are implicated; however, the study of KIR activity in this model is hindered by incomplete characterization of KIR genetics.


Here we present a characterization of KIR genetics in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). We conducted a survey of KIRs in this species, identifying 47 novel full-length KIR sequences. Using this expanded sequence library to build upon previous work, we present evidence supporting the existence of 22 Mamu-KIR genes, providing a framework within which to describe macaque KIRs. We also developed a novel pyrosequencing-based technique for KIR genotyping. This method provides both comprehensive KIR genotype and frequency estimates of transcript level, with implications for the study of KIRs in all species.


The results of this study significantly improve our understanding of macaque KIR genetic organization and diversity, with implications for the study of many human diseases that use macaques as a model. The ability to obtain comprehensive KIR genotypes is of basic importance for the study of KIRs, and can easily be adapted to other species. Together these findings both advance the field of macaque KIRs and facilitate future research into the role of KIRs in human disease.