Early Duplication of a Single MHC IIB Locus Prior to the Passerine Radiations
Eimes, J. A., Lee, S. I., Townsend, A. K., Jablonski, P. G., Nishiumi, I., Satta, Y.
A key characteristic of MHC genes is the persistence of allelic lineages over macroevolutionary periods, often through multiple speciation events. This phenomenon, known as trans-species polymorphism (TSP), is well documented in several major taxonomic groups, but has less frequently been observed in birds. The order Passeriformes is arguably the most successful terrestrial vertebrate order in terms of diversity of species and ecological range, but the reasons for this success remain unclear. Passerines exhibit the most highly duplicated MHC genes of any major vertebrate taxonomic group, which may generate increased immune response relative to other avian orders with fewer MHC loci. Here, we describe phylogenetic patterns of the MHC IIB in the passerine family Corvidae. Our results indicate wide-spread TSP within this family, with at least four supported MHC IIB allelic lineages that predate speciation by many millions of years. Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations indicate that divergence of these lineages occurred near the time of the divergence of the Passeriformes and other avian orders. We suggest that the current MHC diversity observed in passerines is due in part to the multiple duplication of a single MHC locus, DAB1, early in passerine evolution and that subsequent duplications of these paralogues have contributed to the enormous success of this order by increasing their ability to recognize and mount immune responses to novel pathogens.