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MHC-I provides both quantitative resistance and susceptibility to blood parasites in blue tits in the wild

  • J. Rivero De Aguilar
  • H. Westerdahl
  • J. Martínez De La Puente
  • G. Tomás
  • J. Martínez
  • S. Merino
Publishing year: 2016-09
Language: English
Pages: 669-677
Publication/Series: Journal of Avian Biology
Volume: 47
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Abstract english

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes are central for the adaptive immune response against parasites. Here, we investigated potential associations among MHC-I alleles and blood parasite infections in a natural breeding population of a passerine bird, the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus, in central Spain. We screened both infection status (presence/absence of infection) and infection intensity to the pathogenic blood parasites Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon. Three MHC-I alleles (UA104, UA108 and UA117) were associated with higher or lower infection intensities by Leucocytozoon. Interestingly, these associations were dependent on age and were found both among young and adult birds. No MHC alleles were associated with infection intensity by Haemoproteus parasites. In addition, no significant relationships were detected between infection status by Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon infections and MHC alleles. The very high prevalence of these two parasites in our study population (79-100%) poses challenges to identify associations with infection status and also suggests that clearance of infections may be rare. In conclusion, associations between specific MHC-I alleles and Leucocytozoon parasites were related to either high or low infection intensities, and hence increased susceptibility or resistance to infection.


  • Evolutionary Biology


  • Avian MHC genes
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0908-8857
Helena Westerdahl
E-mail: helena [dot] westerdahl [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer


+46 46 222 36 69



Research group

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Luz Garcia-Longoria

PhD students, main supervisor

Samantha Mellinger

PhD students, assistant supervisor

Gustaf Ekelund Ugge

Helena Westerdahl w house sparrow