, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 265-271
Date: 23 Oct 2009

Mhc class II diversity and balancing selection in greater prairie-chickens

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The major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) of domestic chickens has been characterized as small and relatively simple compared with that of mammals. However, there is growing evidence that the Mhc of many bird lineages may be more complex, even within the Order Galliformes. In this study, we measured genetic variation and balancing selection at Mhc loci in another galliform, the greater prairie-chicken. We cloned and sequenced a 239 bp fragment of Mhc Class II β-chain (BLB) exon 2 in 14 individuals. There was a total of 10 unique sequences and a minimum of four BLB loci. The d N/d S ratio at peptide-binding codons was significantly greater than one, suggesting balancing selection is acting on the BLB. We also recovered two YLB sequences, which clustered tightly with YLB sequences from three other species: domestic chicken, black grouse and common quail. The relatively large number of loci revealed in our study suggests that even closely related galliforms differ in the level of Mhc variation and structure.