Primate Nonhuman Immune System

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Todd M Allen and David I Watkins, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center and Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Nonhuman primates have been widely used as animal models for human diseases. Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus macaques provides an excellent model for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections of humans. Similarly, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

(EAE) induction in macaques and common marmosets has been utilized as a model for multiple sclerosis, and collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in macaques is a good model for rheumatoid arthritis. Nonhuman primates have also been important in a variety of other studies attempting to delineate the immune response to pathogens that infect humans. The use of nonhuman primates in such studies is largely due to the similarity between their immune systems and that of their human counterparts. In particular, the lymphocyte markers, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, and T cell receptors (TCRs) of Old World primates and great apes are very similar to those of humans. In this entry we will describe several animal models of human diseases and the similarities between the immune systems, MHC genes and TCR genes of nonhuman primates and humans.

Primates of the Anthropoidea suborder can be divided into two main infraorders. The first is the Catarrhini, which includes humans, great apes (e.g. chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans) and Old World primates (e.g. baboons, colobus monkeys and the macaques). It is thought that chimpanzees and humans last had a common ancestor about 5 million years ago, whereas rhesus macaques and humans last had a common ancestor 35-40 million years ago. The second infraorder is the Platyrrhini, or New World primates. These include, among others, owl monkeys, squirrel monkeys and the marmosets and tamarins.

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