In all vertebrates studied to date, the expression of MHC class II genes is known to be restricted to a limited number of tissues and cell types. In order to have a better understanding of the function of the equivalent genes in teleost fish, the distribution of MHC class II beta transcripts (Cyca-DAB) in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) was investigated. RNA was isolated from tissues and leucocytes, cDNA was produced, and amplification of the Cyca-DAB genes was carried out by PCR. Of the organs with known immunological function, the highest level of Cyca-DAB transcription was found in the thymus. Despite their expected different cellular organization, total blood, head kidney, spleen and the second segment of the gut had similar Cyca-DAB expression levels. No class II transcripts were detected in the skeletal muscle. The studies carried out with leucocytes isolated from the lymphoid tissues point to a direct correlation between the levels of expression and the amounts of surface immunoglobulin positive (sIg+) cells present in the different cell fractions. However, thymus leucocytes did not follow this correlation since the highest level of class II expression was found in a thymocyte fraction that contained very low numbers of Ig+ cells. In PBL the Ig+ cells were highly positive whereas the Ig- were weakly positive. Adherent leucocytes shown to be class II positive, although adherent cells from PBL show a lower level of expression compared to those from the spleen and head kidney.
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