MHC class II diversity of koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations across their range
Q Lau, W Jaratlerdsiri, JE Grifﬁth, J Gongora and DP Higgins
Major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII) genes code for proteins that bind and present antigenic peptides and trigger the adaptive immune response. We present a broad geographical study of MHCII DA b1 (DAB) and DB b1 (DBB) variants of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus; n¼191) from 12 populations across eastern Australia, with a total of 13 DAB and 7 DBB variants found. We identiﬁed greater MHCII variation and, possibly, additional gene copies in koala populations in the north (Queensland and New South Wales) relative to the south (Victoria), conﬁrmed by STRUCTURE analyses and genetic differentiation using analysis of molecular variance. The higher MHCII diversity in the north relative to south could potentially be attributed to (i) signiﬁcant founder effect in Victorian populations linked to historical translocation of bottlenecked koala populations and (ii) increased pathogen-driven balancing selection and/or local genetic drift in the north. Low MHCII genetic diversity in koalas from the south could reduce their potential response to disease, although the three DAB variants found in the south had substantial sequence divergence between variants. This study assessing MHCII diversity in the koala with historical translocations in some populations contributes to understanding the effects of population translocations on functional genetic diversity.