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Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 12;6:38490. doi: 10.1038/srep38490.

MHC-dependent mate choice is linked to a trace-amine-associated receptor gene in a mammal.

Author information

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin, Germany.
Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.
Berlin Center for Genomics in Biodiversity Research (BeGenDiv), 14195 Berlin, Germany.
Leibniz Institute on Age - Fritz Lipmann Institute, Jena, Germany.
Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity, Berlin, Germany.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes play a pivotal role in vertebrate self/nonself recognition, parasite resistance and life history decisions. In evolutionary terms, the MHC's exceptional diversity is likely maintained by sexual and pathogen-driven selection. Even though MHC-dependent mating preferences have been confirmed for many species, the sensory and genetic mechanisms underlying mate recognition remain cryptic. Since olfaction is crucial for social communication in vertebrates, variation in chemosensory receptor genes could explain MHC-dependent mating patterns. Here, we investigated whether female mate choice is based on MHC alleles and linked to variation in chemosensory trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) in the greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata). We sequenced several MHC and TAAR genes and related their variation to mating and paternity data. We found strong evidence for MHC class I-dependent female choice for genetically diverse and dissimilar males. We also detected a significant interaction between mate choice and the female TAAR3 genotype, with TAAR3-heterozygous females being more likely to choose MHC-diverse males. These results suggest that TAARs and olfactory cues may be key mediators in mammalian MHC-dependent mate choice. Our study may help identify the ligands involved in the chemical communication between potential mates.

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