Egernia stokesii (gidgee skink) MHC I positively selected sites lack concordance with HLA peptide binding regions

Abstract

Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play an important role in vertebrate disease resistance, kin recognition and mate choice. Mammalian MHC is the most widely characterised of all vertebrates, and attention is often given to the peptide binding regions of the MHC because they are presumed to be under stronger selection than non-peptide binding regions. For vertebrates where the MHC is less well understood, researchers commonly use the amino acid positions of the peptide binding regions of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to infer the peptide binding regions within the MHC sequences of their taxon of interest. However, positively selected sites within MHC have been reported to lack correspondence with the HLA in fish, frogs, birds and reptiles including squamates. Despite squamate diversity, the MHC has been characterised in few snakes and lizards. The Egernia group of scincid lizards is appropriate for investigating mechanisms generating MHC variation, as their inclusion will add a new lineage (i.e. Scincidae) to studies of selection on the MHC. We aimed to identify positively selected sites within the MHC of Egernia stokesii and then determine if these sites corresponded with the peptide binding regions of the HLA. Six positively selected sites were identified within E. stokesii MHC I, only two were homologous with the HLA. E. stokesii positively selected sites corresponded more closely to non-lizard than other lizard taxa. The characterisation of the MHC of more intermediate taxa within the squamate order is necessary to understand the evolution of the MHC across all vertebrates.

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Acknowledgments

We thank volunteers for assistance with field surveys; Kathy Saint and Terry Bertozzi for assistance with laboratory work; and Katina Krasnec for assistance with bioinformatics. We undertook laboratory components of this work at the South Australian Research Facility for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Adelaide. Funding from The Field Naturalists Society of South Australia and the Sir Mark Mitchell Research Foundation supported this work.

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Correspondence to Sarah K. Pearson.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted.

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Pearson, S.K., Bull, C.M. & Gardner, M.G. Egernia stokesii (gidgee skink) MHC I positively selected sites lack concordance with HLA peptide binding regions. Immunogenetics 69, 49–61 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00251-016-0947-5

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Keywords

  • MHC
  • Peptide binding region
  • Positively selected sites
  • Squamata
  • Scincidae
  • Egernia stokesii