Evol Ecol Res 8: 373-386 (2006)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Relative importance of MHC and genetic background for parasite load in a field experiment

Gisep Rauch,* Martin Kalbe and Thorsten B.H. Reusch‡

Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology, August-Thienemann-Str. 2, D-24306 Plön, Germany

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: rauch@mpil-ploen.mpg.de


Question: How do major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes influence parasite load in a natural experiment?

Methods: We crossed three-spined sticklebacks from a river habitat with genetically distinct lake sticklebacks and inter-crossed the resulting F1 hybrids. F2 offspring segregate into pure river or pure lake MHC genotypes and into two hybrid genotypes, while randomizing the background genome across all MHC genotypes.

Experiment: In outdoor cages, we exposed fish reciprocally to the natural parasite communities of the river and lake habitats.

Results: MHC genotype did not significantly influence parasite load. In contrast, genomic background explained a significant percentage of the variation in parasite load.

Keywords: adaptive and innate immune system, Gasterosteus aculeatus, major histocompatibility complex, parasite load.

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