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Sexual selection for genetic compatibility: the role of the major histocompatibility complex on cryptic female choice in Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Heredity volume 118, pages 442452 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Cryptic female choice (CFC), a form of sexual selection during or post mating, describes processes of differential sperm utilization by females to bias fertilization outcomes towards certain males. In Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) the ovarian fluid surrounding the ova of a given female differently enhances the sperm velocity of males. Sperm velocity is a key ejaculate trait that determines fertilization success in externally fertilizing fishes, thus the differential effect on sperm velocity might bias male fertilization outcomes and represent a mechanism of CFC. Once sperm reach the oocyte, CFC could potentially be further facilitated by sperm–egg interactions, which are well understood in externally fertilizing marine invertebrates. Here, we explored the potential genetic basis of both possible mechanisms of CFC by examining whether the genotypic combinations of mates (amino-acid divergence, number of shared alleles) at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II explain the variation in sperm velocity and/or male fertilization success that is not explained by sperm velocity, which might indicate MHC-based sperm–egg interactions. We recorded sperm velocity in ovarian fluid, employed paired-male fertilization trials and evaluated the fertilization success of each male using microsatellite-based paternity assignment. We showed that relative sperm velocity was positively correlated with fertilization success, confirming that the differential effect on sperm velocity may be a mechanism of CFC in Chinook salmon. The variation in sperm velocity was independent of MHC class I and II. However, the MHC class II divergence of mates explained fertilization success, indicating that this locus might influence sperm–egg interactions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Patrice Rosengrave, Janine Wing for their efforts at field work, Joanne Gillum and Sara Ferreira for their assistance with laboratory work and Dr Sheri Johnson for advice on the fertilization experiments. We express our gratitude to Genom NZ (Invermay, New Zealand) for the microsatellite genotyping. We are also very thankful to the staff at the Silverstream hatchery of Salmon Smolt NZ, in particular Ben Divett, Karl French, Errol White, Tom Gough and Luke Price. Finally, we thank anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was supported by Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund grant UOO0913 awarded to NJG and a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship awarded to CG.

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  1. Department of Anatomy, Allan Wilson Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

    • C Gessner
    • , M Zavodna
    •  & N J Gemmell
  2. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

    • S Nakagawa
  3. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    • S Nakagawa

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to C Gessner.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/hdy.2016.116

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