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 RaphaŽlle 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.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184 (link will go live on Friday, September 12)
CITATION: Chaix R, Cao C, Donnelly P (2008) Is Mate Choice in Humans MHC-Dependent?. PLoS Genet 4(9): e1000184. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184
00 33 1 44 05 72 42
This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Genetics. The release is provided by journal staff. Any opinions expressed in this release or article are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.
About PLoS Genetics
PLoS Genetics (http://www.plosgenetics.org) reflects the full breadth and interdisciplinary nature of genetics and genomics research by publishing outstanding original contributions in all areas of biology. All works published in PLoS Genetics are open access. Everything is immediately and freely available online throughout the world subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.
About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.