Article: article from journal or magazin.
Extensive variation at MHC DRB in the New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) provides evidence for balancing selection.
Publication types: Journal Article Publication Status: ppublish
Marine mammals are often reported to possess reduced variation of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes compared with their terrestrial counterparts. We evaluated diversity at two MHC class II B genes, DQB and DRB, in the New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri, NZSL) a species that has suffered high mortality owing to bacterial epizootics, using Sanger sequencing and haplotype reconstruction, together with next-generation sequencing. Despite this species' prolonged history of small population size and highly restricted distribution, we demonstrate extensive diversity at MHC DRB with 26 alleles, whereas MHC DQB is dimorphic. We identify four DRB codons, predicted to be involved in antigen binding, that are evolving under adaptive evolution. Our data suggest diversity at DRB may be maintained by balancing selection, consistent with the role of this locus as an antigen-binding region and the species' recent history of mass mortality during a series of bacterial epizootics. Phylogenetic analyses of DQB and DRB sequences from pinnipeds and other carnivores revealed significant allelic diversity, but little phylogenetic depth or structure among pinniped alleles; thus, we could neither confirm nor refute the possibility of trans-species polymorphism in this group. The phylogenetic pattern observed however, suggests some significant evolutionary constraint on these loci in the recent past, with the pattern consistent with that expected following an epizootic event. These data may help further elucidate some of the genetic factors underlying the unusually high susceptibility to bacterial infection of the threatened NZSL, and help us to better understand the extent and pattern of MHC diversity in pinnipeds.
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