MHC-linked susceptibility to a bacterial infection, but no MHC-linked cryptic female choice in whitefish


  • Present address: Mirjam Walker, Institute for Parasitology, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.

  • Bruno Cenni, Novartis Pharma AG, 4002 Basel, Switzerland.

C. Wedekind, Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, EAWAG, 6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland.
Tel.: 0041 41 349 21 33; fax: 0041 41 349 21 68;


Non-random gamete fusion is one of several potential cryptic female choice mechanisms that have been postulated and that may enhance the survival probability of the offspring. Previous studies have found that gamete fusion in mice is influenced by genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region. Here we test (i) whether there is MHC-dependent gamete fusion in whitefish (Coregonus sp.) and (ii) whether there is a link between the MHC and embryo susceptibility to an infection by the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. We experimentally bred whitefish and reared sibships in several batches that either experienced or did not experience strong selection by P. fluorescens. We then determined the MHC class II B1 genotype of 1016 surviving larvae of several full sibships. We found no evidence for MHC-linked gamete fusion. However, in one of seven sibships we found a strong connection between the MHC class II genotype and embryo susceptibility to P. fluorescens. This connection was still significant after correcting for multiple testing. Hence, the MHC class II genotype can considerably influence embryo survival in whitefish, but gamete fusion seems to be random with respect to the MHC.