The Evolution of Mating Preferences and Major Histocompatibility Complex Genes

  title={The Evolution of Mating Preferences and Major Histocompatibility Complex Genes},
  author={Dustin J. Penn and Wayne K Potts},
  journal={The American Naturalist},
  pages={145 - 164}
House mice prefer mates genetically dissimilar at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The highly polymorphic MHC genes control immunological self/nonself recognition; therefore, this mating preference may function to provide “good genes” for an individual's offspring. However, the evidence for MHC‐dependent mating preferences is controversial, and its function remains unclear. Here we provide a critical review of the studies on MHC‐dependent mating preferences in mice, sheep, and humans… 

Influence of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on human mating preferences

Mating with a MHC dissimilar individual can produce MHC heterozygous offspring that has strong immunocompetence against several parasite types, which has more capability to identify rapidly evolving parasites, which can escape recognition by immune systems containing common alleles.

No evidence for MHC class I‐based disassortative mating in a wild population of great tits

The results provide no support for the suggestion that selection favours, or that mate choice realizes, a preference for complimentary MHC types, and a weak correlation between MHC supertype sharing and relatedness suggests that MHC dissimilarity at functional variants may not provide an effective index of relatedness.

The Major Histocompatibility Complex, Sexual Selection, and Mate Choice

MHC ligand peptides may be the natural “perfume” that reveals a potential partner's MHC genetics probably in all vertebrates and maximizes resistance to ever-changing infectious diseases.

MHC‐based mate choice combines good genes and maintenance of MHC polymorphism

It is argued that such an interaction between host and parasite driving assortative mating is not only a prerequisite for negative frequency‐dependent selection — a potential mechanism to explain the maintenance of MHC polymorphism, but also potentially speciation.

Extra‐pair mating in a passerine bird with highly duplicated major histocompatibility complex class II: Preference for the golden mean

This study exemplifies how mate choice can reduce the population variance in individual MHC diversity and exert strong stabilizing selection on the trait and supports the hypothesis that extra‐pair mating is adaptive through altered genetic constitution in offspring.

Genomic analysis of MHC-based mate choice in the monogamous California mouse

The results suggest that MHC genetic variation in California mice reflects local differences in pathogen exposure rather than disassortative mating based on variability at MHC Class I and II genes.

Is Mate Choice in Humans MHC-Dependent?

Analysis of genome-wide genotype data and HLA types in African and European American couples to test whether humans tend to choose MHC-dissimilar mates supports the hypothesis that the MHC influences mate choice in some human populations.

Complexity and context of MHC‐correlated mating preferences in wild populations

Two papers are raised in this Molecular Ecology issue, in which patterns of reproductive success in tiger salamanders and three‐spined sticklebacks are each inconsistent with a generalized preference for MHC dissimilarity, and several adaptive reasons for decision rules that do not necessarily result in maximizing mate Dissimilarity are raised.

Sexual selection and the evolutionary dynamics of the major histocompatibility complex

It is demonstrated that natural and sexual selection produce distinctive signatures of MHC allelic diversity with critical implications for understanding host–pathogen dynamics, and MHC-based sexual selection may help to explain how functionally important genetic variation can be maintained in populations of conservation concern.

MHC-associated mating strategies and the importance of overall genetic diversity in an obligate pair-living primate

Evidence is found that mate choice is predicted in the first place by the ‘good-genes-as-heterozygosity hypothesis’ whereas the occurrence of extra-pair matings supports the “dissassortative mating hypothesis”.



The role of infectious disease, inbreeding and mating preferences in maintaining MHC genetic diversity: an experimental test.

It is suggested that inbreeding avoidance may be the most important function of MHC-based mating preferences and therefore the fundamental selective force diversifying MHC genes in species with such mating patterns.

Mating patterns in seminatural populations of mice influenced by MHC genotype

Reproductive mechanisms, primarily mating preferences, result in 27% fewer MHC-homozygous offspring than expected from random mating, and mating preferences are strong enough to account for most of the MHC genetic diversity found in natural populations of Mus.

No evidence for major histocompatibility complex–dependent mating patterns in a free–living ruminant population

It is concluded that MHC diversity in the St Kildan Soay sheep population is unlikely to be maintained by mating preferences and that, in contrast with evidence from experimental mice populations, MHC variation plays no role in the mating structure of this population.

MHC–disassortative mating preferences reversed by cross–fostering

  • D. PennW. Potts
  • Biology, Psychology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 1998
It is shown that MHC–dependent familial imprinting potentially provides a more effective mechanism for avoiding kin matings and reducing inbreeding than self–inspection.

Preweaning experience in the control of mating preferences by genes in the major histocompatibility complex of the mouse

It is indicated that the same set of genes involved in regulation of immune function also determines, in part, mate choice and a male bias in favor of females whose MHC types differ from the male's parental MHC type could serve to promote heterozygosity at the MHC.

Kin Recognition and the Major Histocompatibility Complex: An Integrative Review

This review integrates recent advances in these fields around the central theme of kin recognition, showing how behavior, disease, and molecular genetics can be integrated in a context of evolution and natural selection.

MHC-dependent mate preferences in humans

The MHC influences both body odours and body odour preferences in humans, and that the women’s preferences depend on their hormonal status, which suggests that the MHC or linked genes influence human mate choice today.

Genetic variability in the major histocompatibility complex: A review of non‐pathogen‐mediated selective mechanisms

This review discusses the evidence for natural selection acting on MHC genes, in the form of homozygote deficiencies observed in human population isolates, and the two major candidates for mechanisms of non-pathogen-driven selection, maternal-fetal interactions and MHC-based mate choice.

Non-random fertilization in mice correlates with the MHC and something else

In an in vitro fertilization experiment with two inbred mouse strains congenic for their MHC, nonrandom MHC combinations in the blastocysts were found which may result from both possible choice mechanisms.

The major histocompatibility complex and mating preferences of male mice