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Monogamy and the immune system
Date:8/30/2012

In the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains two closely related species of mice share a habitat and a genetic lineage, but have very different social lives. The California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) is characterized by a lifetime of monogamy; the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is sexually promiscuous.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley recently showed how these differences in sexual behavior impact the bacteria hosted by each species as well as the diversity of the genes that control immunity. The results were published in the May 2012 edition of PLoS One.

Monogamy is a fairly rare trait in mammals, possessed by only five percent of species. Rarely do two related, but socially distinguishable, species live side-by-side. This makes these two species of mice interesting subjects for Matthew MacManes, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

Through a series of analyses, MacManes and researchers from the Lacey Lab examined the differences between these two species on the microscopic and molecular levels. They discovered that the lifestyles of the two mice had a direct impact on the bacterial communities that reside within the female reproductive tract. Furthermore, these differences correlate with enhanced diversifying selection on genes related to immunity against bacterial diseases.

Bacteria live on every part of our bodies and have distinctive ecologies. The first step of MacManes project involved testing the bacterial communities that resided in the vaginas of both species of mice the most relevant area for a study about monogamous and promiscuous mating systems.

Next, MacManes performed a genetic analysis on the variety of DNA present, revealing hundreds of different types of bacteria present in each species. He found that the promiscuous deer mouse had twice the bacterial diversity as the monogamous California mouse. Since man
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Contact: Aaron Dubrow
aarondubrow@tacc.utexas.edu
512-475-9439
University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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