MHC class I and MHC class II DRB gene variability in wild and captive Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris)
Bengal tigers are highly endangered and knowledge on adaptive genetic variation can be essential for efficient conservation and management. Here we present the first assessment of allelic variation in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and MHC class II DRB genes for wild and captive tigers from India. We amplified, cloned, and sequenced alpha-1 and alpha-2 domain of MHC class I and beta-1 domain of MHC class II DRB genes in 16 tiger specimens of different geographic origin. We detected high variability in peptide-binding sites, presumably resulting from positive selection. Tigers exhibit a low number of MHC DRB alleles, similar to other endangered big cats. Our initial assessment—admittedly with limited geographic coverage and sample size—did not reveal significant differences between captive and wild tigers with regard to MHC variability. In addition, we successfully amplified MHC DRB alleles from scat samples. Our characterization of tiger MHC alleles forms a basis for further in-depth analyses of MHC variability in this illustrative threatened mammal.
KeywordsAdaptive variability Balancing selection Bengal tiger Conservation genetics MHC
We thank Carolin Doering, Madlen Stange, and Fanny Wegner for laboratory help. Financial support is acknowledged from the University of Potsdam. We would like to express sincere thanks to Shri P.R. Sinha, Director and Dr. V.B. Mathur, Dean of the Wildlife Institute of India for providing all required support for the work on tiger genetics. We thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript.
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