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Immunity Traits May Be Involved In Mate Choice In Some Human Populations

Date:
September 14, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Some human populations may rely on biological factors in addition to social factors when selecting a mate. Scientists have reported genomic data showing that immunity traits may be involved in mate choice in some human populations.

Some human populations may rely on biological factors in addition to social factors when selecting a mate. Scientists in China, France, and the United Kingdom have reported genomic data showing that immunity traits may be involved in mate choice in some human populations.

In several species it has been shown that the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), a large genomic region involved in immune response, influences mating selections and that this may be mediated by preferences based on body odor. Some previous studies have reported a tendency for humans to prefer MHC-dissimilar mates, encouraging heterozygosity at MHC loci in offspring and resulting in improved immune response. However, other studies, both directly in couples and also indirectly in "sweaty T-shirts" experiments, have reported conflicting results.

Adding to this debate is the recent study by Raphaλlle Chaix, Chen Cao and Peter Donnelly. The testing employed genome-wide genotype data and HLA types in a sample of African and a sample of European American couples, enabling the researchers to distinguish MHC-specific effects from genome-wide effects. The group examined whether husband-wife couples were more MHC-similar or MHC-dissimilar in comparison to random pairs of individuals.

African couples were not more MHC-similar or MHC-dissimilar, although genome-wide they were more similar than random couples, probably as a consequence of social factors. On the other hand, European American pairs were predominantly MHC-dissimilar, and drastically so in comparison to the genome, supporting the hypothesis that the MHC influences mate choice in this population. Future studies may add to this debate of whether biological traits play a significant role beside social traits in the process of mating.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chaix R, Cao C, Donnelly P. Is Mate Choice in Humans MHC-Dependent? PLoS Genetics, 2008; 4 (9): e1000184 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Immunity Traits May Be Involved In Mate Choice In Some Human Populations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080912075206.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, September 14). Immunity Traits May Be Involved In Mate Choice In Some Human Populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080912075206.htm
Public Library of Science. "Immunity Traits May Be Involved In Mate Choice In Some Human Populations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080912075206.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

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