Low MHC variation in isolated island populations of the Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
We studied variation at the class II gene of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in Natterjack toad populations (Bufo [Epidalea] calamita) on islands off the west coast of Sweden. These isolated populations have previously been shown to exhibit low levels of neutral genetic variation. On seven investigated islands we found only two different MHC alleles, indicating that the genetic variation at this locus is also low. The two alleles were found in all populations, although in one population there was only a single heterozygous individual. The Swedish toads showed similar low levels of MHC variation as revealed by previously published data from populations in northern Europe. We did not find a correlation between MHC and neutral genetic variation (as determined by AFLP). However, our findings show that reduced genetic variation in the Swedish Natterjack toads is not restricted to neutral markers, but is likewise reflected at the MHC.
KeywordsMajor histocompatibility complex Isolation Genetic variation Founder effect
Thanks to Gunilla Engström for help in the lab. The study was partially funded by the Swedish Research councils VR and Formas (to JH).
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