Natural occurrences of immunodeficiency by definition should lead to compromised immune function. The major histocompatibility complexes (MHC) are key components of the vertebrate adaptive immune system, charged with mediating allorecognition and antigen presentation functions. To this end, the genomic loss of the MHC II pathway in Syngnathus pipefishes raises questions regarding their immunological vigilance and allorecognition capabilities. Utilising allograft and autograft fin-transplants, we compared the allorecognition immune responses of two pipefish species, with (Nerophis ophidion) and without (Syngnathus typhle) a functional MHC II. Transcriptome-wide assessments explored the immunological tolerance and potential compensatory measures occupying the role of the absent MHC II. Visual observations suggested a more acute rejection response in N. ophidion allografts compared with S. typhle allografts. Differentially expressed genes involved in innate immunity, angiogenesis and tissue recovery were identified among transplantees. The intriguing upregulation of the cytotoxic T-cell implicated gzma in S. typhle allografts, suggests a prominent MHC I related response, which may compensate for the MHC II and CD4 loss. MHC I related downregulation in N. ophidion autografts hints at an immunological tolerance related reaction. These findings may indicate alternative measures evolved to cope with the MHC II genomic loss enabling the maintenance of appropriate tolerance levels. This study provides intriguing insights into the immune and tissue recovery mechanisms associated with syngnathid transplantation, and can be a useful reference for future studies focussing on transplantation transcriptomics in non-model systems.
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