Studies of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC)
Investigations of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) of the horse have provided the backbone for several projects in the Antczak laboratory over the past 30 years. The MHC genetic region has been the subject of intense study in many species for the past half-century because of its role in regulating immune responses and its importance in clinical organ transplantation. In the 1980s Dr. Antczak was one of the key organizers of a series of international workshops convened by the Havemeyer Foundation for the purpose of defining genetic variation in the equine MHC. This cooperative venture fostered many subsequent studies of the structure, polymorphism, and function of equine MHC genes. This research has been greatly facilitated by the unique herd of MHC homozygous horses that has been selectively bred and maintained at the Baker Institute since the early 1980s. Studies of these horses allow a much greater degree of precision in immunology and genetic experiments than is possible with randomly bred horses.
The Antczak laboratory continues to study the extent of MHC variation in different horse breeds, with current projects on Arabian and Icelandic horses. This work uses a variety of molecular methods, including SNP and microsatellite analysis. With support from the Zweig Fund and in collaboration with Drs. Klaus Osterrieder of Germany and Rebecca Tallmadge of Cornell the combined group is defining the peptides presented by MHC class I molecules for presentation to effector T-cells. This study aims to identify the most immunogenic proteins of important horse pathogens, including equine herpesvirus type 1, with the long-term goal of developing more effective vaccines.