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Krakow/Halle. Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes produce proteins that are crucial in fighting pathogen assault. Researchers from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) characterized genetic variation and detected more than one MHC class II locus in a tailed amphibian. Unlike mammals, not much has been known until now about the immune defence of amphibians. Globally, amphibian populations are in an unprecedented decline, to a considerable extent caused by rapidly spreading infectious diseases, such as the fungal infection Chytridiomycosis. Therefore future conservation strategies for amphibians could benefit from knowledge about species-specific adaptations indicated by MHC variation, say the researchers writing in the journal Molecular Ecology. For their research, the scientists conducted a genetic study of various populations of the Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) in Poland at the northern limit of this Central European species' distribution range. The Alpine newt is the first European and the third on the global scale, tailed amphibian species in which the MHC has been studied, and the first one in which more than one MHC II locus has been found.
The crucial role of the MHC in the immunity of mammals is well recognized. The discovery in tailed amphibians, however, shows that the genetic variation in MHC is important for this group as well: "In this study we were able to demonstrate that positive selection has been acting" reports Wiesaw Babik of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. "This means that these genes play an important role in the immune system which recognises and fights diseases." The lead author of the study, Wiesaw Babik, conducted the research as part of a collaborative project between the University of Krakow and th
|Contact: Tilo Arnhold|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres