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There is strong evidence that the immunity induced by live vaccination for control of the protozoan parasite Theileria parva is mediated by class I MHC-restricted CD8(+) T cells directed against the schizont stage of the parasite that infects bovine lymphocytes. The functional competency of class I MHC genes is dependent on the presence of codons specifying certain critical amino acid residues that line the peptide binding groove. Compared with European Bos taurus in which class I MHC allelic polymorphisms have been examined extensively, published data on class I MHC transcripts in African taurines in T. parva endemic areas is very limited. We utilized the multiplexing capabilities of 454 pyrosequencing to make an initial assessment of class I MHC allelic diversity in a population of Ankole cattle. We also typed a population of exotic Holstein cattle from an African ranch for class I MHC and investigated the extent, if any, that their peptide-binding motifs overlapped with those of Ankole cattle. We report the identification of 18 novel allelic sequences in Ankole cattle and provide evidence of positive selection for sequence diversity, including in residues that predominantly interact with peptides. In silico functional analysis resulted in peptide binding specificities that were largely distinct between the two breeds. We also demonstrate that CD8(+) T cells derived from Ankole cattle that are seropositive for T. parva do not recognize vaccine candidate antigens originally identified in Holstein and Boran (Bos indicus) cattle breeds.