Genetic variation of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)

Poult Sci. 2016 Feb;95(2):400-11. doi: 10.3382/ps/pev364. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a multi-family gene cluster that encodes proteins with immuno-responsive function. While studies of MHC in domesticated poultry are relatively common, very little is known about this highly polymorphic locus in wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), the natural progenitor of domestic chickens. We investigated the diversity of MHC within and among four wild Red Junglefowl populations across diversified natural habitats in South Central Vietnam. Based on a SNP panel of 84 sites spanning 210 Kb of the MHC-B locus, we identified 310 unique haplotypes in 398 chromosomes. None of these haplotypes have been described before and we did not observe any of the wild Red Junglefowl haplotypes in domesticated chickens. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed that 94.51% of observed haplotype variation was accounted for at the within individual level. Little genetic variance was apportioned within and among populations, the latter accounting only for 0.83%. We also found evidence of increased recombination, including numerous hotspots, and limited linkage disequilibrium among the 84 SNP sites. Compared to an average haplotype diversity of 3.55% among seventeen lines of domestic chickens, our results suggest extraordinarily high haplotype diversity remains in wild Red Junglefowl and is consistent with a pattern of balancing selection. Wild Red Junglefowl in Vietnam, therefore, represent a rich resource of natural genomic variation independent from artificial selection.

Keywords: Adaptive variation; Balancing selection; Biodiversity; Major Histocompatibility Complex; Red Junglefowl.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / genetics
  • Chickens / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Haplotypes
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex*
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Vietnam