Class I and II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) probes can be used to subdivide diabetes-prone BB rats and their BBN control strain, coderived from the same outbred colony by selection against diabetes. Class II probes (A-alpha in particular) distinguish four restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP), termed 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b, in the BBN population, only one of which (2a) is found in BB rats. The degree of class II RFLP in the population studied is RT1.B-alpha greater than or equal to RT1.B-beta greater than RT1.D-alpha greater than or equal to RT1.D-beta, suggesting that intra-class II region dynamics may be different in rats compared with mice. A class I probe (S16) absolutely distinguished BB from BBN rats, since all BB rats exhibit an RFLP pattern termed 2a0, while 2a BBN rats can be subdivided into 2a1 and 2a2 forms. Serologic evaluation has shown that 2a0, 2a1, and 2a2 rats express RT1.AuBu, 1a rats express RT1.AaDa, and 1b rats express neither RT1a nor RT1u at the loci tested. A breeding study was carried out to determine the diabetogenicity of the MHC-defined RFLP's. As expected, the BB-derived 2a0 is diabetogenic. The BBN-derived 2a1 and 2a2 RFLPs are also diabetogenic, while 1a and 1b rats do not carry MHC-linked diabetogenic genes. The MHC-linked diabetes gene acts in a functionally recessive manner, since there is a 10-fold higher incidence in homozygotes than in heterozygotes. Analysis of the RFLP patterns leads us to hypothesize that the 2a1 RFLP results from a crossover between 1a and 2a0 MHCs and that the diabetogenic MHC-linked gene is on the class II side of Qa and T1. The availability of three diabetogenic MHC haplotypes should help localize the MHC-linked diabetogenic gene of rats.

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