, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 125–136 | Cite as

Genetic variation and selection of MHC class I loci differ in two congeneric frogs

  • Karen M. Kiemnec-TyburczyEmail author
  • Karen E. Tracy
  • Karen R. Lips
  • Kelly R. Zamudio
Original Paper


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes encode proteins in the acquired immune response pathway that often show distinctive selection-driven patterns in wild vertebrate populations. We examined genetic variation and signatures of selection in the MHC class I alpha 1 (A1)- and alpha 2 (A2)-domain encoding exons of two frog congeners [Agalychnis callidryas (n = 20) and A. lemur (n = 20)] from a single locality in Panama. We also investigated how historical demographic processes may have impacted MHC genetic diversity by analyzing a neutral mitochondrial marker. We found that both MHC domains were highly variable in both species, with both species likely expressing three loci. Our analyses revealed different signatures of selection between the two species, most notably that the A. callidryas A2 domain had experienced positive selection while the A2 domain of A. lemur had not. Diversifying selection acted on the same number of A1 and A2 allelic lineages, but on a higher percentage of A1 sites compared to A2 sites. Neutrality tests of mitochondrial haplotypes predominately indicated that the two species were at genetic equilibrium when the samples were collected. In addition, two historical tests of demography indicated both species have had relatively stable population sizes over the past 100,000 years; thus large population size changes are unlikely to have greatly influenced MHC diversity in either species during this time period. In conclusion, our results suggest that the impact of selection on MHC diversity varied between these two closely related species, likely due to a combination of distinct ecological conditions and past pathogenic pressures.


Agalychnis Anura Immunogenetics Panama Positive selection Major histocompatibility complex 



We thank Anna Savage, Jonathan Richmond and Steve Bogdanowicz for technical assistance, and Jeanne Robertson for specimen collection. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grants DEB-0815315, DEB-0717741 and DEB-1120249 to K.Z. and K.L.) and a Cornell Center for Comparative Population Genomics Fellowship (to K.K.-T).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

10709_2018_16_MOESM1_ESM.doc (37 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 37 KB)
10709_2018_16_MOESM2_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 53 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen M. Kiemnec-Tyburczy
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Karen E. Tracy
    • 1
  • Karen R. Lips
    • 2
  • Kelly R. Zamudio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesHumboldt State UniversityArcataUSA

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