Single locus typing of MHC class I and class II B loci in a population of red jungle fowl
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- Worley, K., Gillingham, M., Jensen, P. et al. Immunogenetics (2008) 60: 233. doi:10.1007/s00251-008-0288-0
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In species with duplicated major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, estimates of genetic variation often rely on multilocus measures of diversity. It is possible that such measures might not always detect more detailed patterns of selection at individual loci. Here, we describe a method that allows us to investigate classical MHC diversity in red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken, using a single locus approach. This is possible due to the well-characterised gene organisation of the ‘minimal essential’ MHC (BF/BL region) of the domestic chicken, which comprises two differentially expressed duplicated class I (BF) and two class II B (BLB) genes. Using a combination of reference strand-mediated conformation analysis, cloning and sequencing, we identify nine BF and ten BLB alleles in a captive population of jungle fowl. We show that six BF and five BLB alleles are from the more highly expressed locus of each gene, BF2 and BLB2, respectively. An excess of non-synonymous substitutions across the jungle fowl BF/BL region suggests that diversifying selection has acted on this population. Importantly, single locus screening reveals that the strength of selection is greatest on the highly expressed BF2 locus. This is the first time that a population of red jungle fowl has been typed at the MHC region, laying the basis for further research into the underlying processes acting to maintain MHC diversity in this and other species.