No selection against offspring with limited variation in the immune system

14 August 2017

BPRC - 1. No selection against offspring with limited variation in the immune system

There are indications that partner choice of people is unconsciously focused on ensuring a progeny that is well-armed against pathogens. The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a component of the immunesystem which plays an important role in the recognition of pathogens.

The level of variability of the MHC correlates with the ability to recognize different pathogens. A higher variability increases the potential to cope a wider variety of pathogens. The MHC is inherited from the parents, part of the father and the other part of the mother. Not only partner choice but also post-copulatory processes may play a role in favour of a variable and against an identical MHC. BPRC researchers have investigated in the colony of rhesus monkeys that are housed at the BPRC whether selection in favour of a varied MHC also occurs in rhesus macaques. 

It was found that varied MHC combinations did not occur more frequently in offspring than identical MHC combinations. However, certain MHC combinations appeared to occur more frequently than others. In these combinations, the MHC parts derived from fathers with an MHC that differs from that of the mother, appears to be inherited more often. This work has been published in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mec.14153/abstract).