High levels of genetic variation at MHC class II DBB loci in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii)

Abstract

High levels of MHC diversity are crucial for immunological fitness of populations, with island populations particularly susceptible to loss of genetic diversity. In this study, the level of MHC class II DBB diversity was examined in tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) from Kangaroo Island by genotyping class II-linked microsatellite loci and sequencing of DBB genes. Here we show that the tammar wallaby has at least four expressed MHC class II DBB loci and extensive genetic variation in the peptide-binding region of the DBB genes. These results contradict early studies which suggested that wallabies lacked MHC class II diversity and demonstrate that, in spite of the long-term isolation on an offshore island, this population of wallabies has a high level of DBB diversity.

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Acknowledgements

The project was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant to KB, ME, and SB. We thank Cathy Herbert from the University of Sydney for providing wallaby blood samples and Matthew Wakefield from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for assistance with developing microsatellite primers. Hannah Siddle is funded by a University of Sydney Postgraduate Award. SB was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

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Correspondence to Katherine Belov.

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Cheng, Y., Siddle, H.V., Beck, S. et al. High levels of genetic variation at MHC class II DBB loci in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Immunogenetics 61, 111–118 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00251-008-0347-6

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Keywords

  • Marsupial
  • MHC Class II
  • Tammar wallaby
  • MHC-linked microsatellite
  • Genetic variation