Allorecognition is the ability of an organism to differentiate self or close relatives from unrelated conspecifics. Effective allorecognition systems are critical to the survival of organisms; they prevent inbreeding and facilitate fusions between close relatives. Where the loci governing allorecognition outcomes have been identified, the corresponding proteins often exhibit exceptional polymorphism. Two important questions about this polymorphism remain unresolved: how is it created, and how is it maintained. Because the genetic bases of several allorecognition systems have now been identified, including alr1 and alr2 in Hydractinia, fusion histocompatibility in Botryllus, the het (vic) loci in fungi, tgrB1 and tgrC1 in Dictyostelium, and self-incompatibility (SI) loci in several plant families, we are now poised to achieve a clearer understanding of how these loci evolve. In this review, we summarize what is currently known about the evolution of allorecognition loci, highlight open questions, and suggest future directions.
Keywords: allorecognition; balancing selection; mutation; polymorphism; recombination; variation.