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Trends Genet. 1993 Dec;9(12):408-12.

Evolution of MHC genetic diversity: a tale of incest, pestilence and sexual preference.

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  • 1Center for Mammalian Genetics, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610-0275.


Evidence from the house mouse (Mus) suggests that the extreme diversity of genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) results from three different forms of selection involving infectious disease (pestilence), inbreeding (incest) and MHC-based mating (sexual) preferences. MHC-based disassortative mating preferences are presumed to have evolved because they reduce homozygosity throughout the genome, and particularly within loci linked to the MHC. Progeny derived from such disassortative matings would enjoy increased fitness because of both reduced levels of inbreeding depression and increased resistance to infectious disease arising from their increased MHC heterozygosity.

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