Contemporary evolution of the innate immune receptor gene TLR3 in an isolated vertebrate population

Charli S. Davies, Martin I. Taylor, Martijn Hammers, Terry Burke, Jan Komdeur, Hannah L Dugdale, David S. Richardson

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Abstract

Understanding where genetic variation exists, and how it influences fitness within populations is important from an evolutionary and conservation perspective. Signatures of past selection suggest that pathogen-mediated balancing selection is a key driver of immunogenetic variation, but studies tracking contemporary evolution are needed to help resolve the evolutionary forces and mechanism at play. Previous work in a bottlenecked population of Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis) show that functional variation has been maintained at the viral-sensing Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) gene, including one nonsynonymous SNP, resulting in two alleles. Here, we characterise evolution at this TLR3 locus over a 25-year period within the original remnant population of the Seychelles warbler, and in four other derived, populations. Results show a significant and consistent temporal decline in the frequency of the TLR3C allele in the original population, and that similar declines in the TLR3C allele frequency occurred in all the derived populations. Individuals (of both sexes) with the TLR3CC genotype had lower survival, and males - but not females - that carry the TLR3C allele had significantly lower lifetime reproductive success than those with only the TLR3A allele. These results indicate that positive selection on the TLR3A allele, caused by an as yet unknown agent, is driving TLR3 evolution in the Seychelles warbler. No evidence of heterozygote advantage was detected. However, whether the positive selection observed is part of a longer-term pattern of balancing selection (through fluctuating selection or rare-allele advantage) cannot be resolved without tracking the TLR3C allele over an extended time period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2528-2542
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Volume30
Issue number11
Early online date5 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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