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Local adaptation of the MHC class IIβ gene in populations of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) correlates with proximity to agriculture

Hernández-Gómez, Obed, Kimble, Steven J.A., Hua, Jessica, Wuerthner, Vanessa P., Jones, Devin K., Mattes, Brian M., Cothran, Rickey D., Relyea, Rick A., Meindl, George A., Hoverman, Jason T.
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2019 v.73 pp. 197-204
Rana sylvatica, Trematoda, alleles, amphibians, anthropogenic activities, disease resistance, gene frequency, genetic markers, genetic variation, host-parasite relationships, hosts, immunocompetence, infectious diseases, loci, major histocompatibility complex, microsatellite repeats, models, parasites, pathogens, peptides, population dynamics, proteins, wildlife, Pennsylvania
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes code for membrane-embedded proteins that are involved in parasite/pathogen recognition. The link between the MHC and immunity makes these genes important genetic markers to evaluate in systems where infectious disease is associated with population declines. As human impacts on wildlife populations continue to increase, it is also essential to evaluate the role of MHC and immunity in the context of anthropogenic change. Amphibians are an ideal model to test the role of the MHC in infectious disease resistance, as parasites and anthropogenic disturbances currently threaten populations worldwide. We characterized the diversity of MHC class IIβ peptide binding region alleles, 13 microsatellite loci, and population-level trematode resistance in 14 populations of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) in northwestern Pennsylvania with varying geographic distances to agriculture. To assess local adaptation in the MHC IIβ, we compared genetic differentiation of MHC IIβ and microsatellite markers (FST). We also tested for an effect of isolation by distance on genetic differentiation of MHC IIβ and microsatellite markers. In addition, we evaluated whether population-level MHC IIβ diversity and common allele frequencies correlate with distance to agriculture and trematode resistance. We found no evidence for genetic structure based on microsatellite analysis nor an effect of isolation by distance on neutral and immunogenetic markers. However, we did detect structure based on the MHC IIβ locus, suggesting that it is under local selection. The MHC IIβ allele Lisy-DAB*1 was more common in populations living near agricultural sites. Populations with higher MHC IIβ diversity showed increased resistance to trematodes. Our results suggest that wood frog populations experience immunogenetic differences at a small scale. In addition, agriculture may disturb natural associations between hosts and parasites through its influence on immunocompetence, underscoring the importance of examining the effects of environmental context on host-parasite interactions.