Variation of the major histocompatibility complex genes in the Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix, Galliformes)
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|Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes are one of the basic components of the immune system in jawed vertebrates. They encode transmembrane glycoproteins situated on the surface of cells. MHC receptors bind peptide molecules; the complexes of MHC and antigen peptides are subsequently recognised by T lymphocytes, thus initiating the adaptive immune response. There is a direct link between MHC genes and health/disease, as shown by many studies. The structure of MHC genes is very variable, particularly in birds, and this fact may have important evolutionary and ecological consequences. Extensive studies have shown the existence of the minimal essential MHC in chicken (Gallus gallus; Galliformes) and profoundly different and variable MHC in some Passerines which seem to be the most extreme cases in birds. Evidence has been found throughout species that MHC genes influence individual fitness, although the mechanism itself can be different. They have also been reported to govern sexual selection and reproductive success. Grey Partridge was common in the Czech Republic in the past, but since the change of agricultural strategy in 1950s its abundance has been declining. The preservation of this typical species of the open countryside depends on the full understanding of mechanisms acting in natural populations. With this complex knowledge, an effective management of wild living populations can be implied and that would contribute to its conservation. The aim of this study is to optimize the method of analysis of MHC Class IIB genes in the Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix; Galliformes), describe the variability of these genes in wild living populations and compare the data with a population from a breeding farm. Preliminary analysis has suggested that the Grey Partridge has more variable MHC Class IIB genes than chicken but not as much as the Passerines, although this variation is significantly reduced in captive populations. Based on the MHC genotypes, we are also analysing the influence of allelic diversity on the mating of birds in wild living populations and their hatching success.