During the last two centuries, the Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica) has shown a significant demographic decline as a result of the progressive destruction of its natural habitat, disease epidemics, and uncontrolled hunting. Partial sequencing of the class II MHC DRB1 gene revealed that the Spanish ibex has remarkably low levels of genetic variation at this locus, with only six different DRB1 alleles and an observed heterozygosity of 0.429-0.579. The rates of nonsynonymous vs synonymous substitutions were significantly different in the peptide-binding region (dN/dS = 5.347, P = 0.002), a feature that indicates that the DRB1 gene is under positive selection. A phylogenetic analysis of the Spanish ibex and a set of domestic goat DRB1 alleles revealed that the reported sequences represent four major allelic lineages. The limited allelic repertoire of the DRB1 gene in the Spanish ibex is likely the direct result of the recent history of population bottlenecks and marked demographic decline of this species. A genetic survey of 13 microsatellite loci was consistent with this idea. The Spanish ibex subspecies C. p. hispanica and C. p. victoriae consistently showed considerably lower levels of microsatellite heterozygosity (Ho = 0.184-0.231) and allelic diversity (mean number of alleles per locus = 2-2.4) than those reported in other wild ruminants. This study demonstrates the significance of both natural selection and the demographic history of populations in determining patterns of genetic variation at MHC loci. In addition, our results emphasize the importance of locally adapted populations for the preservation of genetic diversity.
- Adaptive variation
- Genetic diversity