454 screening of individual MHC variation in an endemic island passerine

Catalina Gonzalez Quevedo (Lead Author), Karl Phillips, Lewis Spurgin, David Richardson

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Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) code for receptors that are central to the adaptive immune response of vertebrates. These genes are therefore important genetic markers with which to study adaptive genetic variation in the wild. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has increasingly been used in the last decade to genotype the MHC. However, NGS methods are highly prone to sequencing errors, and although several methodologies have been proposed to deal with this, until recently there have been no standard guidelines for the validation of putative MHC alleles. In this study, we used the 454 NGS platform to screen MHC class I exon 3 variation in a population of the island endemic Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus berthelotii). We were able to characterise MHC genotypes across 309 individuals with high levels of repeatability. We were also able to determine alleles that had low amplification efficiencies, whose identification within individuals may thus be less reliable. At the population level we found lower levels of MHC diversity in Berthelot’s pipit than in its widespread continental sister species the tawny pipit (Anthus campestris), and observed trans-species polymorphism. Using the sequence data, we identified signatures of gene conversion and evidence of maintenance of functionally divergent alleles in Berthelot’s pipit. We also detected positive selection at 10 codons. The present study therefore shows that we have an efficient method for screening individual MHC variation across large datasets in Berthelot’s pipit, and provides data that can be used in future studies investigating spatio-temporal patterns and scales of selection on the MHC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • 454
  • major histocompatability complex
  • Berthelot's pipit
  • allele amplification efficiency
  • Tawny pipit
  • Anthus berthelotii
  • Anthus campestris

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