No selection to prevent offspring with limited variability in its immune system

14 Aug 2017 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports

There appears to be some evidence that people subconsciously choose partners who will give them children who are well prepared to fight off pathogens. A component of the immune system called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) plays a vital part in the recognition of pathogens.

The more diverse your MHC, the more pathogens your immune system will be able to recognise, and the better protected you will be. People inherit their MHC from their parents – some from their mother and some from their father. The choice for a partner with a different rather than identical MHC may inform post-mating processes, as well. BPRC-affiliated researchers investigated whether the rhesus macaques in BPRC's colony of rhesus macaques select their partners on the basis of variable MHC.

It was observed that variable MHC combinations are not found more often in the monkeys' offspring than identical MHC combinations. However, certain MHC combinations were found to be more common than others. The MHC components derived from fathers with MHC that is different from the mother's seem to be inherited more often. This study was published in the Molecular Ecology academic journal.