MHC variation is similar in little brown bats before and after white-nose syndrome outbreak
Yi, Xueling et al. (2021), MHC variation is similar in little brown bats before and after white-nose syndrome outbreak, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.76hdr7ssq
White-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), has driven alarming declines in North American hibernating bats, such as little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). During hibernation, infected little brown bats are able to initiate anti-Pd immune responses, indicating pathogen-mediated selection on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes. However, such immune responses may not be protective as they interrupt torpor, elevate energy costs, and potentially lead to higher mortality rates. To assess whether WNS drives selection on MHC genes, we compared the MHC DRB gene in little brown bats pre- (Wisconsin) and post- (Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania) WNS (detection spanning 2014-2015). We genotyped 131 individuals and found 45 nucleotide alleles (27 amino acid alleles) indicating a maximum of 3 loci (1-5 alleles per individual). We observed high allelic admixture and a lack of genetic differentiation both among sampling sites and between pre- and post-WNS populations, indicating no signal of selection on MHC genes. However, post-WNS populations exhibited decreased allelic richness, reflecting effects from bottleneck and drift following rapid population declines. We propose that mechanisms other than adaptive immunity are more likely driving current persistence of little brown bats in affected regions.