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Am Nat. 2015 Feb;185(2):228-42. doi: 10.1086/679442. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

Histocompatibility as adaptive response to discriminatory within-organism conflict: a historical model.

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Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712.


Multicellular tissue compatibility, or histocompatibility, restricts fusion to close kin. Histocompatibility depends on hypervariable cue genes, which often have more than 100 alleles in a population. To explain the evolution of histocompatibility, I here take a historical approach. I focus on the specific example of marine invertebrate histocompatibility. I use simple game-theoretical models to show that histocompatibility can evolve through five steps. These steps include the evolution of indiscriminate fusion, the evolution of discriminatory within-organism conflict, the evolution of minor histocompatibility, the evolution of major histocompatibility, and the evolution of major histocompatibility cue polymorphism. Allowing for gradual evolution reveals discriminatory within-organism conflict as a selective pressure for histocompatibility and associated cue polymorphism. Existing data from marine invertebrates and other organisms are consistent with this hypothesis.

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