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Is Promiscuity Associated with Enhanced Selection on MHC-DQα in Mice (genus Peromyscus)?

By Matthew D. MacManes and Eileen A. Lacey


Reproductive behavior may play an important role in shaping selection on Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes. For example, the number of sexual partners that an individual has may affect exposure to sexually transmitted pathogens, with more partners leading to greater exposure and, hence, potentially greater selection for variation at MHC loci. To explore this hypothesis, we examined the strength of selection on exon 2 of the MHC-DQα locus in two species of Peromyscus. While the California mouse (P. californicus) is characterized by lifetime social and genetic monogamy, the deer mouse (P. maniculatus) is socially and genetically promiscuous; consistent with these differences in mating behavior, the diversity of bacteria present within the reproductive tracts of females is significantly greater for P. maniculatus. To test the prediction that more reproductive partners and exposure to a greater range of sexually transmitted pathogens are associated with enhanced diversifying selection on genes responsible for immune function, we compared patterns and levels of diversity at the Class II MHC-DQα locus in sympatric populations of P. maniculatus and P. californicus. Using likelihood based analyses, we show that selection is enhanced in the promiscuous P. maniculatus. This study is the first to compare the strength of selection in wild sympatric rodents with known differences in pathogen milieu

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