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Genetica. 2007 Feb;129(2):217-25. Epub 2006 Nov 14.

Evolutionary genetics of Carpodacus mexicanus, a recently colonized host of a bacterial pathogen, Mycoplasma gallisepticum.

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Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.


We present molecular data documenting how introduction to the eastern United States and an epizootic involving a bacterial pathogen has affected the genetic diversity of house finches, a cardueline songbird. Population bottlenecks during introduction can cause loss of genetic variation and may negatively affect a population's ability to adapt to novel stressors such as disease. Although a genome-wide survey using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) markers suggests little loss of genetic diversity in introduced populations, an epizootic of bacterial Mycoplasma has nonetheless caused dramatic declines in the eastern US population. Sequence analysis of a candidate gene for pathogen resistance in the Major Histocompatibity Complex (MHC) in pre- and post-epizootic population samples reveals allele frequency shifts since introduction of the pathogen, but similar shifts are also observed in control populations not exposed to the bacteria, and in a neutral non-coding locus. Expression studies using a novel subtractive hybridization approach indicate decreased expression of the class II MHC locus upon exposure to Mycoplasma, a pattern also seen in MHC class I loci in mice infected with cytomegalovirus and consistent with manipulation of the finch immune system by Mycoplasma. These results will be further expanded using experimental studies as well as examination of evolution of the pathogen genome itself.

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