CANCELLED: The Natural Variation of the Chimpanzee and Bonobo MHC: Balancing Disease and Reproduction


Thursday, March 2, 2017, 4:00pm


Science Center Hall E, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

This event has been CANCELLED.

Emily Wroblewski, Research Scientist, Department of Structural Biology and Microbiology & Immunology, Stanford U. School of Medicine

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC), also known as the HLA region in humans, is a cluster of genes encoding molecules which are involved in every arm of the immune response and therefore critical to individual fitness. Pressure from pathogens has driven the MHC to be the most polymorphic and rapidly evolving part of the vertebrate genome. However we know almost nothing about its population dynamics in humans. Non-human apes are particularly useful models and comparative species because they are genetically similar to humans and susceptible to many related pathogens. Consequently, study of apes can critically inform upon how natural selection has driven the exceptional human population genetic variation of the MHC. Using the rich 55-year history of the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, in Tanzania, I will present long-term data showing how their MHC immunogenetic variation is shaped by disease, particularly SIVcpz (chimpanzee simian immunodeficiency virus), female migration, and the fecundity of socially dominant individuals. Using data from my companion study of wild bonobos, I will show that hominid species, while varied in their social structure, share a common pattern of population MHC genetic diversity. In addition, I will discuss the essential functional components of the immune system retained by bonobos despite reduced MHC diversity compared to chimpanzees and humans.