Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes are widely recognised as valuable markers for wildlife genetic studies given their extreme polymorphism and functional importance in fitness-related traits. Newly developed genotyping methods, which rely on the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS), are gradually replacing traditional cloning and Sanger sequencing methods in MHC genotyping studies. Allele calling in NGS methods remains challenging due to extreme polymorphism and locus multiplication in the MHC coupled with allele amplification bias and the generation of artificial sequences. In this study, we compared the performance of molecular cloning with Illumina and Ion Torrent NGS sequencing in MHC-DRB genotyping of single-locus species (roe deer) and species with multiple DRB loci (red deer) in an attempt to adopt a reliable and straightforward method that does not require complex bioinformatic analyses. Our results show that all methods work similarly well in roe deer, but we demonstrate non-consistency in results across methods in red deer. With Illumina sequencing, we detected a maximum number of alleles in 10 red deer individuals (42), while other methods were somewhat less accurate as they scored 69-81% of alleles detected with Illumina sequencing.
Keywords: Capreolus capreolus; Cervus elaphus; Illumina; Ion Torrent; major histocompatibility complex; next-generation sequencing.