Initial description of Major Histocompatibility Complex variation at two Class II loci (DQA-DQB) in <i>Sotalia fluviatilis</i> and <i>Sotalia guianensis</i>
AbstractGenes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a key role in the initiation of immune response in jawed vertebrates. Variation at MHC loci can be used as an indicator of the genetic ‘health’ of natural populations and offer insight into potential susceptibility to epizootics. Here we present the first characterization of the sequence variation at two MHC class II loci (DQA and DQB) in the neotropical coastal (Sotalia guianensis) and riverine (Sotalia fluviatilis) dolphins, using cloning and direct sequencing of amplified genomic DNA. Four DQA and four DQB alleles were identified in 33 and 32 Sotalia samples, respectively, and high nucleotide diversity among these alleles was detected, similar to the findings described for other cetacean species. Positive selection was evidenced by an excess of dn/ds at the Peptide-Binding-Region of the DQB of Sotalia. The presence of common alleles at both loci in S. fluviatilis and S. guianensis are consistent with trans-species mode of evolution in the MHC. In contrast to observed low levels of mtDNA diversity at the population level, there was an apparent lack of reduction of DQA and DQB allelic variation in the Brazilian Coast population unit. This suggests either present or past balancing selection acting to maintain MHC variation in this population unit.
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