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Research Article

Is Mate Choice in Humans MHC-Dependent?

  • Raphaëlle Chaix mail,

    chaix@mnhn.fr

    Affiliations: Department of Statistics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, Unité d'Eco-Anthropologie, CNRS UMR 5145, Musée de l'Homme, Paris, France

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  • Chen Cao,

    Affiliation: CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Shanghai, China

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  • Peter Donnelly

    Affiliations: Department of Statistics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

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  • Published: September 12, 2008
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184

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Copy of the press release originally distributed on September 11, 2008

Posted by PLoS_Genetics on 03 Oct 2008 at 10:44 GMT

* Mate selection more biologically determined in some human populations *

Some human populations may rely on biological factors in addition to social factors when selecting a mate. In a recent study, published September 12 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, scientists in China, France, and the United Kingdom report 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 Raphaëlle 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.

CONTACT:
Raphaëlle Chaix
chaix@mnhn.fr


Press coverage

PLoS_Genetics replied to PLoS_Genetics on 03 Oct 2008 at 10:50 GMT

The following links provide access to some of the news/blog coverage since publication. The journal is not responsible for the content of external sites; some external sites may require registration to view the full article; readers are welcome to judge the merits of each piece, considered in conjunction with the open-access article (www.plosgenetics.org/doi/...) for themselves.

- New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.c...
- ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Hea...
- USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/t...
- io9: http://io9.com/5049292/eu...
- Dienekes' Anthropology blog: http://dienekes.blogspot....