Lack of genetic diversity across diverse immune genes in an endangered mammal, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
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Journal titleMolecular Ecology
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AbstractThe Tasmanian devil (S arcophilus harrisii ) is threatened with extinction due to the spread of devil facial tumour disease. Polymorphisms in immune genes can provide adaptive potential to resist diseases. Previous studies in diversity at immune loci in wild species have almost exclusively focused on genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC ); however, these genes only account for a fraction of immune gene diversity. Devils lack diversity at functionally important immunity loci, including MHC and Toll‐like receptor genes. Whether there are polymorphisms at devil immune genes outside these two families is unknown. Here, we identify polymorphisms in a wide range of key immune genes, and develop assays to type single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP s) within a subset of these genes. A total of 167 immune genes were examined, including cytokines, chemokines and natural killer cell receptors. Using genome‐level data from ten devils, SNP s within coding regions, introns and 10 kb flanking genes of interest were identified. We found low polymorphism across 167 immune genes examined bioinformatically using whole‐genome data. From this data, we developed long amplicon assays to target nine genes. These amplicons were sequenced in 29–220 devils and found to contain 78 SNP s, including eight SNPS within exons. Despite the extreme paucity of genetic diversity within these genes, signatures of balancing selection were exhibited by one chemokine gene, suggesting that remaining diversity may hold adaptive potential. The low functional diversity may leave devils highly vulnerable to infectious disease, and therefore, monitoring and preserving remaining diversity will be critical for the long‐term management of this species. Examining genetic variation in diverse immune genes should be a priority for threatened wildlife species. This study can act as a model for broad‐scale immunogenetic diversity analysis in threatened species.
Rights© 2015 The Authors. Molecular Ecology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2015 The Authors. Molecular Ecology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.