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Genotyping of black grouse MHC class II B using reference Strand-Mediated Conformational Analysis (RSCA)

Tanja M Strand* and Jacob Höglund

Author Affiliations

Population Biology and Conservation Biology, Dept. of Ecology & Genetics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, SE-752 36, Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:183  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-183

Published: 14 June 2011



The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a cluster of genes involved in the vertebrate immune system and includes loci with an extraordinary number of alleles. Due to the complex evolution of MHC genes, alleles from different loci within the same MHC class can be very similar and therefore difficult to assign to separate loci. Consequently, single locus amplification of MHC genes is hard to carry out in species with recently duplicated genes in the same MHC class, and multiple MHC loci have to be genotyped simultaneously. Since amplified alleles have the same length, accurate genotyping is difficult. Reference Strand-Mediated Conformational Analysis (RSCA), which is increasingly used in studies of natural populations with multiple MHC genes, is a genotyping method capable to provide high resolution and accuracy in such cases.


We adapted the RSCA method to genotype multiple MHC class II B (BLB) genes in black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), a non-model galliform bird species, using a 96-Capillary Array Electrophoresis, the MegaBACE™ 1000 DNA Analysing System (GE Healthcare). In this study we used fluorescently labelled reference strands from both black grouse and hazel grouse and observed good agreement between RSCA and cloning/sequencing since 71 alleles were observed by cloning/sequencing and 76 alleles by RSCA among the 24 individuals included in the comparison. At the individual level however, there was a trend towards more alleles scored with RSCA (1-6 per individual) than cloning/sequencing (1-4 per individual). In 63% of the pair-wise comparison, the identical allele was scored in RSCA as in cloning/sequencing. Nine out of 24 individuals had the same number of alleles in RSCA as in cloning/sequencing. Our RSCA protocol allows a faster RSCA genotyping than presented in many other RSCA studies.


In this study, we have developed the RSCA typing method further to work on a 96-Capillary Array Electrophoresis (MegaBACE™ 1000). Our RSCA protocol can be applied to fast and reliable screening of MHC class II B diversity of black grouse populations. This will facilitate future large-scale population studies of black grouse and other galliformes species with multiple inseparable MHC loci.