Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 374–380 | Cite as

MHC and fertilization success in the Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus)

  • Frode Skarstein
  • Ivar Folstad
  • Ståle Liljedal
  • Mats Grahn
Original Article


Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are remarkably polymorphic. Several selection mechanisms have been invoked to account for this diversity, including disassortative mating preferences. In addition, eggs may discriminate between sperm based on MHC. To investigate the effects of MHC-genotype on fertilization success, we obtained mature gametes from ripe Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) males and females captured on spawning grounds. The eggs of each female were divided into two batches, and by letting each of 2 males fertilize 1 of the batches, we obtained a total of 36 half-sibling batch-pairs. The semen was diluted to ensure that the two males in each half-sibling batch-pair contributed with the same number of sperm cells. We found that MHC-heterozygous males had significantly higher fertilization success than MHC-homozygous males and neither initial spermatocrit, sperm motility nor swimming velocity co-varied with difference in fertilization success. There was no effect of female genotype or female-male MHC-similarity on fertilization success. However, one MHC-allele was associated with increased fertilization success. It seems plausible that the difference in fertilization success between homo- and heterozygous males may be due to MHC-dependent sperm selection by the ovum.


Fertilization Salvelinus alpinus Major histocompatibility complex Sperm selection Sperm-egg interactions 



We are grateful for the constructive comments of Claus Wedekind, Jakob Lohm and several anonymous referees, and the patience of editor Mark Abrahams.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frode Skarstein
    • 1
  • Ivar Folstad
    • 1
  • Ståle Liljedal
    • 1
  • Mats Grahn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Evolution and Ecology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Department of Biosciences at Novum, Karolinska InstitutetSödertörns University CollegeHuddingeSweden

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