No evidence for MHC class II-based non-random mating at the gametic haplotype in Atlantic salmon.

PMID 28098849


Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are a likely target of mate choice because of their role in inbreeding avoidance and potential benefits for offspring immunocompetence. Evidence for female choice for complementary MHC alleles among competing males exists both for the pre- and the postmating stages. However, it remains unclear whether the latter may involve non-random fusion of gametes depending on gametic haplotypes resulting in transmission ratio distortion or non-random sequence divergence among fused gametes. We tested whether non-random gametic fusion of MHC-II haplotypes occurs in Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. We performed in vitro fertilizations that excluded interindividual sperm competition using a split family design with large clutch sample sizes to test for a possible role of the gametic haplotype in mate choice. We sequenced two MHC-II loci in 50 embryos per clutch to assess allelic frequencies and sequence divergence. We found no evidence for transmission ratio distortion at two linked MHC-II loci, nor for non-random gamete fusion with respect to MHC-II alleles. Our findings suggest that the gametic MHC-II haplotypes play no role in gamete association in Atlantic salmon and that earlier findings of MHC-based mate choice most likely reflect choice among diploid genotypes. We discuss possible explanations for these findings and how they differ from findings in mammals.