Evolution of major histocompatibility complex gene copy number.
ABSTRACT: MHC genes, which code for proteins responsible for presenting pathogen-derived antigens to the host immune system, show remarkable copy-number variation both between and within species. However, the evolutionary forces driving this variation are poorly understood. Here, we use computer simulations to investigate whether evolution of the number of MHC variants in the genome can be shaped by the number of pathogen species the host population encounters (pathogen richness). Our model assumed that while increasing a range of pathogens recognised, expressing additional MHC variants also incurs costs such as an increased risk of autoimmunity. We found that pathogen richness selected for high MHC copy number only when the costs were low. Furthermore, the shape of the association was modified by the rate of pathogen evolution, with faster pathogen mutation rates selecting for increased host MHC copy number, but only when pathogen richness was low to moderate. Thus, taking into account factors other than pathogen richness may help explain wide variation between vertebrate species in the number of MHC genes. Within population, variation in the number of unique MHC variants carried by individuals (INV) was observed under most parameter combinations, except at low pathogen richness. This variance gave rise to positive correlations between INV and host immunocompetence (proportion of pathogens recognised). However, within-population variation in host immunocompetence declined with pathogen richness. Thus, counterintuitively, pathogens can contribute more to genetic variance for host fitness in species exposed to fewer pathogen species, with consequences to predictions from "Hamilton-Zuk" theory of sexual selection.
Project description:As a textbook case for the importance of genetics in conservation, absence of genetic variability at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is thought to endanger species viability, since it is considered crucial for pathogen resistance. An alternative view of the immune system inspired by life history theory posits that a strong response should evolve in other components of the immune system if there is little variation in the MHC. In contrast to the leopard (Panthera pardus), the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has a relatively low genetic variability at the MHC, yet free-ranging cheetahs are healthy. By comparing the functional competence of the humoral immune system of both species in sympatric populations in Namibia, we demonstrate that cheetahs have a higher constitutive innate but lower induced innate and adaptive immunity than leopards. We conclude (1) immunocompetence of cheetahs is higher than previously thought; (2) studying both innate and adaptive components of immune systems will enrich conservation science.
Project description:The evolution of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is shaped by frequent gene duplications and deletions, which generate extensive variation in the number of loci (gene copies) between different taxa. Here, we collected estimates of copy number at the MHC for over 250 bird species from 68 families. We found contrasting patterns of copy number evolution between MHC class I and class IIB, which encode receptors for intra- and extracellular pathogens, respectively. Across the avian evolutionary tree, there was evidence of accelerated evolution and stabilizing selection acting on copy number at class I, while copy number at class IIB was primarily influenced by fluctuating selection and drift. Reconstruction of MHC copy number variation showed ancestrally low numbers of MHC loci in nonpasserines and evolution toward larger numbers of loci in passerines. Different passerine lineages had the highest duplication rates for MHC class I (Sylvioidea) and class IIB (Muscicapoidea and Passeroidea). We also found support for the correlated evolution of MHC copy number and life-history traits such as lifespan and migratory behavior. These results suggest that MHC copy number evolution in birds has been driven by life histories and differences in exposure to intra- and extracellular pathogens.
Project description:Infectious diseases have serious impacts on human and wildlife populations, but the effects of a disease can vary, even among individuals or populations of the same host species. Identifying the reasons for this variation is key to understanding disease dynamics and mitigating infectious disease impacts, but disentangling cause and correlation during natural outbreaks is extremely challenging. This study aims to understand associations between symbiotic bacterial communities and an infectious disease, and examines multiple host populations before or after pathogen invasion to infer likely causal links. The results show that symbiotic bacteria are linked to fundamentally different outcomes of pathogen infection: host-pathogen coexistence (endemic infection) or host population extirpation (epidemic infection). Diversity and composition of skin-associated bacteria differed between populations of the frog, Rana sierrae, that coexist with or were extirpated by the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Data from multiple populations sampled before or after pathogen invasion were used to infer cause and effect in the relationship between the fungal pathogen and symbiotic bacteria. Among host populations, variation in the composition of the skin microbiome was most strongly predicted by pathogen infection severity, even in analyses where the outcome of infection did not vary. This result suggests that pathogen infection shapes variation in the skin microbiome across host populations that coexist with or are driven to extirpation by the pathogen. By contrast, microbiome richness was largely unaffected by pathogen infection intensity, but was strongly predicted by geographical region of the host population, indicating the importance of environmental or host genetic factors in shaping microbiome richness. Thus, while both richness and composition of the microbiome differed between endemic and epidemic host populations, the underlying causes are most likely different: pathogen infection appears to shape microbiome composition, while microbiome richness was less sensitive to pathogen-induced disturbance. Because higher richness was correlated with host persistence in the presence of Bd, and richness appeared relatively stable to Bd infection, microbiome richness may contribute to disease resistance, although the latter remains to be directly tested.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The gibel carp is a fish species with dual reproduction modes, gynogenesis and sexual reproduction, coexisting in mixed diploid-polyploid populations. Following the Red Queen (RQ) assumption, asexual organisms are, due to their low genetic diversity, targets for parasite adaptation. Because MHC polymorphism is maintained by selection from parasites and sexual selection, MHC genes are considered as a suitable candidate for testing the RQ hypothesis. In this study, we investigated MHC variability and the selection pressure acting on MHC genes in sexual diploids and asexual triploids. In addition, we tested whether the asexual form of gibel carp suffers from higher parasite loads than the sexual form. RESULTS:At the population level, genotype and allelic diversity of MHC were reduced in gynogenetic triploids when compared to sexual diploids. Different patterns in positively selected sites (PSS) between gynogens and sexual gibel carp were also found. A weak difference in parasite species richness was found between sexual fish and gynogens. However, two common clones of gynogens were significantly more parasitized than sexual diploids or other gynogens with rare MHC genotypes. At the individual level, the higher number of alleles was not associated with higher parasitism in either sexual diploids or gynogens. CONCLUSIONS:The differences in MHC diversity between gynogenetic triploids and sexual diploids are in accordance with the hypothesis of sexually-mediated selection increasing MHC diversity and fulfil a prerequisite of the Red Queen hypothesis. The different patterns in PSS between gynogens and sexual gibel carp also suggest the potential role of sexual selection and supports parasite-mediated selection maintaining MHC diversity. We showed that the most common MHC genotypes of gynogenetic triploids are the target of parasite selection. Our results suggest that the MHC genotype in gibel carp is more important than allelic number for immunocompetence.
Project description:The polymorphism of immunogenes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is thought to influence the functional plasticity of immune responses and, consequently, the fitness of populations facing heterogeneous pathogenic pressures. Here, we evaluated MHC variation (allelic richness and divergence) and patterns of selection acting on the two highly polymorphic MHC class II loci (DRB and DQB) in the endangered primate Madame Berthe's mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae). Using 454 pyrosequencing, we examined MHC variation in a total of 100 individuals sampled over 9 years in Kirindy Forest, Western Madagascar, and compared our findings with data obtained previously for its sympatric congener, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus). These species exhibit a contrasting ecology and demography that were expected to affect MHC variation and molecular signatures of selection. We found a lower allelic richness concordant with its low population density, but a similar level of allelic divergence and signals of historical selection in the rare feeding specialist M. berthae compared to the widespread generalist M. murinus. These findings suggest that demographic factors may exert a stronger influence than pathogen-driven selection on current levels of allelic richness in M. berthae. Despite a high sequence similarity between the two congeners, contrasting selection patterns detected at DQB suggest its potential functional divergence. This study represents a first step toward unravelling factors influencing the adaptive divergence of MHC genes between closely related but ecologically differentiated sympatric lemurs and opens new questions regarding potential functional discrepancy that would explain contrasting selection patterns detected at DQB.
Project description:Genetic variation at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is vitally important for wildlife populations to respond to pathogen threats. As natural populations can fluctuate greatly in size, a key issue concerns how population cycles and bottlenecks that could reduce genetic diversity will influence MHC genes. Using 454 sequencing, we characterized genetic diversity at the DRB Class II locus in montane voles (Microtus montanus), a North American rodent that regularly undergoes high-amplitude fluctuations in population size. We tested for evidence of historic balancing selection, recombination, and gene duplication to identify mechanisms maintaining allelic diversity. Counter to our expectations, we found strong evidence of purifying selection acting on the DRB locus in montane voles. We speculate that the interplay between population fluctuations and gene duplication might be responsible for the weak evidence of historic balancing selection and strong evidence of purifying selection detected. To further explore this idea, we conducted a phylogenetically controlled comparative analysis across 16 rodent species with varying demographic histories and MHC duplication events (based on the maximum number of alleles detected per individual). On the basis of phylogenetic generalized linear model-averaging, we found evidence that the estimated number of duplicated loci was positively related to allelic diversity and, surprisingly, to the strength of purifying selection at the DRB locus. Our analyses also revealed that species that had undergone population bottlenecks had lower allelic richness than stable species. This study highlights the need to consider demographic history and genetic structure alongside patterns of natural selection to understand resulting patterns of genetic variation at the MHC.
Project description:Gut immunocompetence involves immune, stress and regenerative processes. To investigate the determinants underlying inter-individual variation in gut immunocompetence, we perform enteric infection of 140 Drosophila lines with the entomopathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas entomophila and observe extensive variation in survival. Using genome-wide association analysis, we identify several novel immune modulators. Transcriptional profiling further shows that the intestinal molecular state differs between resistant and susceptible lines, already before infection, with one transcriptional module involving genes linked to reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolism contributing to this difference. This genetic and molecular variation is physiologically manifested in lower ROS activity, lower susceptibility to ROS-inducing agent, faster pathogen clearance and higher stem cell activity in resistant versus susceptible lines. This study provides novel insights into the determinants underlying population-level variability in gut immunocompetence, revealing how relatively minor, but systematic genetic and transcriptional variation can mediate overt physiological differences that determine enteric infection susceptibility.
Project description:Gut immunocompetence involves immune, stress, and regenerative processes. To investigate the determinants underlying inter-individual variation in gut immunocompetence, we perform enteric infection of 140 Drosophila lines with the entomopathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas entomophila and observe extensive variation in survival. Using genome-wide association analysis, we identify several novel immune modulators. Transcriptional profiling further shows that the intestinal molecular states of resistant and susceptible lines differ, already before infection, with one transcriptional module involving genes linked to reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolism contributing to this difference. This genetic and molecular variation is physiologically manifested in lower ROS activity, lower susceptibility to ROS-inducing agent, faster pathogen clearance and higher stem cell activity in resistant versus susceptible lines. This study provides novel insights into the determinants underlying population-level variability in gut immunocompetence, revealing how relatively minor, but systematic genetic and transcriptional variation can mediate overt physiological differences that determine enteric infection susceptibility. Overall design: RNA-sequencing of whole guts of female adults from different lines of the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) was performed under two conditions: fed on sucrose or infected with Pseudomonas entomophila.
Project description:While it is now broadly accepted that inter-individual variation in the outcomes of host-pathogen interactions is at least partially genetically controlled, host immunogenetic characteristics are rarely investigated in wildlife epidemiological studies. Furthermore, most immunogenetic studies in the wild focused solely on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) diversity despite it accounts for only a fraction of the genetic variation in pathogen resistance. Here, we investigated immunogenetic diversity of the Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) population of the Bargy massif, reservoir of a virulent outbreak of brucellosis. We analysed the polymorphism and associations with disease resistance of the MHC Class II Drb gene and several non-MHC genes (Toll-like receptor genes, Slc11A1) involved in the innate immune response to Brucella in domestic ungulates. We found a very low neutral genetic diversity and a unique MHC Drb haplotype in this population founded few decades ago from a small number of individuals. By contrast, other immunity-related genes have maintained polymorphism and some showed significant associations with the brucellosis infection status hence suggesting a predominant role of pathogen-mediated selection in their recent evolutionary trajectory. Our results highlight the need to monitor immunogenetic variation in wildlife epidemiological studies and to look beyond the MHC.
Project description:Pathogen transmission responds differently to host richness and abundance, two unique components of host diversity. However, the heated debate around whether biodiversity generally increases or decreases disease has not considered the relationships between host richness and abundance that may exist in natural systems. Here we use a multi-species model to study how the scaling of total host community abundance with species richness mediates diversity-disease relationships. For pathogens with density-dependent transmission, non-monotonic trends emerge between pathogen transmission and host richness when host community abundance saturates with richness. Further, host species identity drives high variability in pathogen transmission in depauperate communities, but this effect diminishes as host richness accumulates. Using simulation we show that high variability in low richness communities and the non-monotonic relationship observed with host community saturation may reduce the detectability of trends in empirical data. Our study emphasizes that understanding the patterns and predictability of host community composition and pathogen transmission mode will be crucial for predicting where and when specific diversity-disease relationships should occur in natural systems.