Data from: Pathogen burden, co-infection and major histocompatibility complex variability in the European badger (Meles meles)
Sin, Yung Wa et al. (2014), Data from: Pathogen burden, co-infection and major histocompatibility complex variability in the European badger (Meles meles), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6408r
Pathogen-mediated selection is thought to maintain the extreme diversity in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, operating through the heterozygote advantage, rare-allele advantage and fluctuating selection mechanisms. Heterozygote advantage (i.e., recognizing and binding a wider range of antigens than homozygotes) is expected to be more detectable when multiple pathogens are considered simultaneously. Here, we test if MHC diversity in a wild population of European badgers (Meles meles) is driven by pathogen-mediated selection. We examined individual prevalence (infected or not), infection intensity and co-infection of 13 pathogens from a range of taxa, and examined their relationships with MHC class I and class II variability. This population has a variable, but relatively low, number of MHC alleles and is infected by a variety of naturally-occurring pathogens, making it very suitable for the investigation of MHC-pathogen relationships. We found associations between pathogen infections and specific MHC haplotypes and alleles. Co-infection status was not correlated with MHC heterozygosity, but there was evidence of heterozygote advantage against individual pathogen infections. This suggests that rare-allele advantages and/or fluctuating selection, as well as heterozygote advantage are likely to be the selective forces shaping MHC diversity in this species. We show stronger evidence for MHC-associations with infection intensity than for prevalence, and conclude that examining both pathogen prevalence and infection intensity is important. Moreover, examination of a large number and diversity of pathogens, and both MHC class I and II genes (which have different functions), provide an improved understanding of the mechanisms driving MHC diversity.