MHC is nothing but a Major Histocompatibility Complex. These are a group of genes that code for proteins. These are found on the surface of the cells which help the body’s immune system recognize any foreign matter. It got this name since it was discovered during a study of tissue compatibility at the time of transplantation. Thus we can safely say that MHC checks upon the compatibility of the donor during the process of organ transplantation. It can also determine the chances of getting the autoimmune disease through cross-reacting immunization.
MHC proteins are present in all the higher vertebrates. MHC protein is of two types and they are:
MHC Class I
The MHC class I molecules are present in almost every nucleated cell in a living being. These are present in platelets as well but are absent in red blood cells that lack nuclei. The MHC class I protein helps in building cellular immunity. This immunity is necessary to take care of the pathogens that are capable of growing and reproducing inside the cells of their hosts. In 1989, the first structure of the MHC class I molecule was published named human HLA-A2. The main function of the class I MHC is to present the proteins that lie inside the cell to cytotoxic T cells which are also called ( CTLs ).
During the time of any infection, for example, consider a viral infection, the cell happens to release a foreign protein. At this time, as part of the MHC class I will exhibit these peptides on the cell surface. As a result, the CTLs that are specific for the MHC peptide complex will find and kill the presenting cells.
MHC Class II
Unlike MHC class I, the MHC class II molecules are confined to macrophages and lymphocytes which are the cells of the immune system. These are mainly found on dendritic cells, B cells, macrophages, etc.
When it comes to genes, each gene in our body has a large number of alleles. Alleles are nothing but the alternate form of genes that are capable of producing alternate forms of proteins. Therefore, we can easily conclude that it’s a very rare chance that any two individuals can have a similar set of MHC molecules. The MHC also contains a number of other genes that code for other proteins. These are called the class III MHC molecules.
During the early 1950s, when the skin graft experiments used to be carried out in mice, there were graft rejections. And these graft rejections were concluded saying that it was immune reactions by the host organism against the foreign matter or tissue. The MHC molecules on the cells of the graft tissue were recognized by the host as the foreign antigen. Therefore, for successful organ transplantation, it was necessary that the tissue type of the donor and the receiver should be similar to a large extent.
Difference Between MHC Class I and MHC Class II Proteins