High levels of variation within the KIR family of two closely related monkey species

06 Mar 2020 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports



Worldwide, rhesus and long-tailed macaques are used as animal models in the development of therapies against serious diseases. These animal species originate in large parts of Southeast Asia. Their response to certain pathogens can differ and may depend on their geographic origin. Similar to humans, proteins of the KIR family (KIR is short for "killer-cell Ig-like receptors") may be involved in this differential response.

We know that proteins from the KIR family are important for defending the body against pathogens. The KIR family is highly complex. For example, the DNA codes of its members not only occur in various quantities, but also in different structures. Previously, we have investigated the mechanisms behind this. However, the actual degree of variation within the KIR family of rhesus and long-tailed macaques has not yet been determined.

Mapping the complexity of the KIR family

To gain more insights into the degree of variation within the monkey KIR family, we characterized this family in a total of around 130 rhesus and long-tailed macaques. To avoid animal discomfort, blood obtained during the annual animal health check was used.

Research with fewer animals

It turned out that the variation within the KIR family of rhesus and long-tailed macaques is unparalleled. Even within these animal species there was extensive variation in the KIR family, depending on the origin of the animals. This is important information because it can affect the sensitivity of animals to certain infections. For specific studies it may therefore be important to map out the variation of the KIR family of animals prior to the start of the study (if this has not already been done). In this way we can limit the number of animals used for specific types of research as much as possible by only selecting suitable animals.

Do you want to know more about this research? Please read the publication in "the Journal of Immunology."