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No evidence that mate choice in humans is dependent on the MHC

By Mircea Cretu-Stancu, Wigard P. Kloosterman, Sara L. Pulit

Posted 04 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/339028

A long-standing hypothesis in biology proposes that various species select mates with a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) composition divergent from their own, so as to improve immune response in offspring. However, human and animal studies investigating this mate selection hypothesis have returned inconsistent results. Here, we analyze 239 mate-pairs of Dutch ancestry, all with whole-genome sequence data collected by the Genome of the Netherlands project, to investigate whether mate selection in humans is MHC dependent. We find no evidence for MHC-mediated mate selection in this sample (with an average MHC genetic similarity in mate pairs (Qc) = 0.829; permutation-based p = 0.703). Limiting the analysis to only common variation or considering the extended MHC region does not change our findings (Qc = 0.671, p = 0.513; and Qc = 0.844, p = 0.696, respectively). We demonstrate that the MHC in mate-pairs is no more genetically dissimilar (on average) than a pair of two randomly selected individuals, and conclude that there is no evidence to suggest that mate choice is influenced by genetic variation in the MHC.

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