Original Paper


, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 337-351

First online:

Sequence analysis of a polymorphic Mhc class II gene in Pacific salmon

  • K. M. MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Fisheries and Oceans, Science Branch, Pacific Biological Station
  • , R. E. WithlerAffiliated withDepartment of Fisheries and Oceans, Science Branch, Pacific Biological Station

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Polymorphism of the nucleotide sequences encoding 149 amino acids of linked major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) class II 131 and 132 peptides, and of the intervening intron (548–773 base pairs), was examined within and among seven Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus) species. Levels of nucleotide diversity were higher for theB1 sequence than forB2 or the intron in comparisons both within and between species. For the codons of the peptide binding region of the BI sequence, the level of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution (dN) exceeded the level of synonymous substitution (dS) by a factor of ten for within-species comparisons, and by a factor of four for between-species comparisons. The excess of dN indicates that balancing selection maintains diversity at this salmonidMhc class II locus, as is common forMhc loci in other vertebrates. Levels of nucleotide diversity for both the exon and intron sequences were greater among than within species, and there were numerous species-specific nucleotides present in both the coding and noncoding regions. Thus, neighbor-joining analysis of both the intron and exon regions provided phylogenies in which the sequences clustered strongly by species. There was little evidence of shared ancestral (trans-species) polymorphism in the exon phylogeny, and the intron phylogeny depicted standard relationships among the Pacific salmon species. The lack of shared allelicB1 lineages in these closely related species may result from severe bottlenecks that occurred during speciation or during the ice ages that glaciated the rim of the north Pacific Ocean approximately every 100 000 years in the Pleistocene.