Mar 24, 2015

Spatially variable coevolution between a haemosporidian parasite and the MHC of a widely distributed passerine

Ecology and Evolution
Matthew R JonesMatthew D Carling


The environment shapes host-parasite interactions, but how environmental variation affects the diversity and composition of parasite-defense genes of hosts is unresolved. In vertebrates, the highly variable major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene family plays an essential role in the adaptive immune system by recognizing pathogen infection and initiating the cellular immune response. Investigating MHC-parasite associations across heterogeneous landscapes may elucidate the role of spatially fluctuating selection in the maintenance of high levels of genetic variation at the MHC. We studied patterns of association between an avian haemosporidian blood parasite and the MHC of rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) that inhabit environments with widely varying haemosporidian infection prevalence in the Peruvian Andes. MHC diversity peaked in populations with high infection prevalence, although intra-individual MHC diversity was not associated with infection status. MHC nucleotide and protein sequences associated with infection absence tended to be rare, consistent with negative frequency-dependent selection. We found an MHC variant associated with a ∽26% decrease in infection probability at middle elevations (1501-3100 ...Continue Reading

Mentioned in this Paper

Immune System
Pathogenic Organism
Spatial Distribution
Zonotrichia capensis
Major Histocompatibility Complex
Disease Susceptibility

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