Cryptic female choice favours sperm from major histocompatibility complex-dissimilar males

Løvlie, Hanne, Gillingham, Mark A. F., Worley, Kirsty, Pizzari, Tommaso and Richardson, David S. ORCID: (2013) Cryptic female choice favours sperm from major histocompatibility complex-dissimilar males. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280 (1769). ISSN 0962-8452

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Cryptic female choice may enable polyandrous females to avoid inbreeding or bias offspring variability at key loci after mating. However, the role of these genetic benefits in cryptic female choice remains poorly understood. Female red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, bias sperm use in favour of unrelated males. Here, we experimentally investigate whether this bias is driven by relatedness per se, or by similarity at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), genes central to vertebrate acquired immunity, where polymorphism is critical to an individual's ability to combat pathogens. Through experimentally controlled natural matings, we confirm that selection against related males' sperm occurs within the female reproductive tract but demonstrate that this is more accurately predicted by MHC similarity: controlling for relatedness per se, more sperm reached the eggs when partners were MHC-dissimilar. Importantly, this effect appeared largely owing to similarity at a single MHC locus (class I minor). Further, the effect of MHC similarity was lost following artificial insemination, suggesting that male phenotypic cues might be required for females to select sperm differentially. These results indicate that postmating mechanisms that reduce inbreeding may do so as a consequence of more specific strategies of cryptic female choice promoting MHC diversity in offspring.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: H.L. was supported by a PhD studentship from the Department of Zoology of Stockholm University, by the Schwartz Foundation, Lars Hierta’s Foundation, Knut & Alice Wallenberg’s Foundation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. M.A.F.G. was funded by a scholarship from the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council. K.W., T.P. and D.S.R. were supported by a research grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/D002788/1). T.P. was also supported by a fellowship from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agriculture and Spatial Planning. Electronic supplementary material is available at or via
Uncontrolled Keywords: genetic relatedness,major histocompatibility complex,postcopulatory sexual selection,sperm choice
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Organisms and the Environment
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 15:18
Last Modified: 17 May 2023 00:56
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1296


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