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Sepil I.,UK Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Major histocompatibility complex (Mhc) genes are believed to play a key role in the genetic basis of disease control. Although numerous studies have sought links between Mhc and disease prevalence, many have ignored the ecological and epidemiological aspects of the host-parasite interaction. Consequently, interpreting associations between prevalence and Mhc has been difficult, whereas discriminating alleles for qualitative resistance, quantitative resistance and susceptibility remains challenging. Moreover, most studies to date have quantified associations between genotypes and disease status, overlooking the complex relationship between genotype and the properties of the Mhc molecule that interacts with parasites. Here, we address these problems and demonstrate avian malaria (Plasmodium) parasite species-specific associations with functional properties of Mhc molecules (Mhc supertypes) in a wild great tit (Parus major) population. We further show that correctly interpreting these associations depends crucially on understanding the spatial variation in risk of infection and the fitness effects of infection. We report that a single Mhc supertype confers qualitative resistance to Plasmodium relictum, whereas a different Mhc supertype confers quantitative resistance to Plasmodium circumflexum infections. Furthermore, we demonstrate common functional properties of Plasmodium-resistance alleles in passerine birds, suggesting this is a model system for parasite-Mhc associations in the wild.

McDonald G.C.,UK Institute of Zoology
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences | Year: 2013

Sexual selection is traditionally measured at the population level, assuming that populations lack structure. However, increasing evidence undermines this approach, indicating that intrasexual competition in natural populations often displays complex patterns of spatial and temporal structure. This complexity is due in part to the degree and mechanisms of polyandry within a population, which can influence the intensity and scale of both pre- and post-copulatory sexual competition. Attempts to measure selection at the local and global scale have been made through multi-level selection approaches. However, definitions of local scale are often based on physical proximity, providing a rather coarse measure of local competition, particularly in polyandrous populations where the local scale of pre- and post-copulatory competition may differ drastically from each other. These limitations can be solved by social network analysis, which allows us to define a unique sexual environment for each member of a population: 'local scale' competition, therefore, becomes an emergent property of a sexual network. Here, we first propose a novel quantitative approach to measure pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection, which integrates multi-level selection with information on local scale competition derived as an emergent property of networks of sexual interactions. We then use simple simulations to illustrate the ways in which polyandry can impact estimates of sexual selection. We show that for intermediate levels of polyandry, the proposed network-based approach provides substantially more accurate measures of sexual selection than the more traditional population-level approach. We argue that the increasing availability of fine-grained behavioural datasets provides exciting new opportunities to develop network approaches to study sexual selection in complex societies.

Lovlie H.,UK Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Cryptic female choice may enable polyandrous females to avoid inbreeding or bias offspring variability at key loci after mating. However, the role of these genetic benefits in cryptic female choice remains poorly understood. Female red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, bias sperm use in favour of unrelated males. Here, we experimentally investigate whether this bias is driven by relatedness per se, or by similarity at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), genes central to vertebrate acquired immunity, where polymorphism is critical to an individual's ability to combat pathogens. Through experimentally controlled natural matings, we confirm that selection against related males' sperm occurs within the female reproductive tract but demonstrate that this is more accurately predicted by MHC similarity: controlling for relatedness per se, more sperm reached the eggs when partners were MHC--dissimilar. Importantly, this effect appeared largely owing to similarity at a single MHC locus (class I minor). Further, the effect of MHC similarity was lost following artificial insemination, suggesting that male phenotypic cues might be required for females to select sperm differentially. These results indicate that postmating mechanisms that reduce inbreeding may do so as a consequence of more specific strategies of cryptic female choice promoting MHC diversity in offspring.

Gonzalez J.C.,UK Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Reproductive cooperation in social animals has been the focus of intensive research, yet the role of environmental factors in promoting such cooperation remains uncertain. A recent global analysis suggested that cooperative breeding in birds is a 'bet-hedging' strategy associated with climatic uncertainty, but it is unclear whether this mechanism applies generally or is restricted to the insectivorous passerines that predominate as cooperative breeders at the global scale. Here, we use a phylogenetic framework to assess the effect of climate on the evolution of cooperation in hornbills (Bucerotidae), an avian family characterized by frugivory and carnivory. We show that, in contrast to the global pattern, cooperative reproduction is positively associated with both inter- and intra-annual climatic stability. This reversed relationship implies that hornbills are relatively insensitive to climatic fluctuations, perhaps because of their dietary niche or increased body mass, both of which may remove the need for bet-hedging. We conclude that the relationship between climatic variability and cooperative breeding is inconsistent across taxa, and potentially mediated by life-history variation. These findings help to explain the mixed results of previous studies and highlight the likely shortcomings of global datasets inherently biased towards particular categories.

Wang J.,UK Institute of Zoology
Journal of Evolutionary Biology | Year: 2014

Inbreeding (F) of and relatedness (r) between individuals are now routinely calculated from marker data in studies in the fields of quantitative genetics, conservation genetics, forensics, evolution and ecology. Although definable in terms of either correlation coefficient or probability of identity by descent (IBD) relative to a reference, they are better interpreted as correlations in marker-based analyses because the reference in practice is frequently the current sample or population whose F and r are being estimated. In such situations, negative estimates have a biological meaning, a substantial proportion of the estimates are expected to be negative, and the average estimates are close to zero for r and equivalent to FIS for F. I show that although current r estimators were developed from the IBD-based concept of relatedness, some of them conform to the correlation-based concept of relatedness and some do not. The latter estimators can be modified, however, so that they estimate r as a correlation coefficient. I also show that F and r estimates can be misleading and become biased and marker dependent when a sample containing a high proportion of highly inbred and/or closely related individuals is used as reference. In analyses depending on the comparison between r (or F) estimates and a priori values expected under ideal conditions (e.g. for identifying genealogical relationship), the estimators should be used with caution. © 2014 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.

Quite a few methods have been proposed to infer sibship and parentage among individuals from their multilocus marker genotypes. They are all based on Mendelian laws either qualitatively (exclusion methods) or quantitatively (likelihood methods), have different optimization criteria, and use different algorithms in searching for the optimal solution. The full-likelihood method assigns sibship and parentage relationships among all sampled individuals jointly. It is by far the most accurate method, but is computationally prohibitive for large data sets with many individuals and many loci. In this article I propose a new likelihood-based method that is computationally efficient enough to handle large data sets. The method uses the sum of the log likelihoods of pairwise relationships in a configuration as the score to measure its plausibility, where log likelihoods of pairwise relationships are calculated only once and stored for repeated use. By analyzing several empirical and many simulated data sets, I show that the new method is more accurate than pairwise likelihood and exclusion-based methods, but is slightly less accurate than the full-likelihood method. However, the new method is computationally much more efficient than the full-likelihood method, and for the cases of both sexes polygamous and markers with genotyping errors, it can be several orders faster. The new method can handle a large sample with thousands of individuals and the number of markers limited only by the computer memory. © 2012 by the Genetics Society of America.

Wang J.,UK Institute of Zoology
Molecular Ecology Resources | Year: 2011

The software package coancestry implements seven relatedness estimators and three inbreeding estimators to estimate relatedness and inbreeding coefficients from multilocus genotype data. Two likelihood estimators that allow for inbred individuals and account for genotyping errors are for the first time included in this user-friendly program for PCs running Windows operating system. A simulation module is built in the program to simulate multilocus genotype data of individuals with a predefined relationship, and to compare the estimators and the simulated relatedness values to facilitate the selection of the best estimator in a particular situation. Bootstrapping and permutations are used to obtain the 95% confidence intervals of each relatedness or inbreeding estimate, and to test the difference in averages between groups. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Gavet O.,UK Institute of Zoology | Pines J.,UK Institute of Zoology
Developmental Cell | Year: 2010

The CyclinB1-Cdk1 kinase is the catalytic activity at the heart of mitosis-promoting factor (MPF), yet fundamental questions concerning its role in mitosis remained unresolved. It is not known when and how rapidly CyclinB1-Cdk1 is activated in mammalian cells, nor how its activation coordinates the substantial changes in the cell at mitosis. Here, we have developed a FRET biosensor specific for CyclinB1-Cdk1 that enables us to assay its activity with very high temporal precision in living human cells. We show that CyclinB1-Cdk1 is inactive in G2 phase and activated at a set time before nuclear envelope breakdown, thereby initiating the events of prophase. CyclinB1-Cdk1 levels rise to their maximum extent over the course of approximately 30 min, and we demonstrate that different levels of CyclinB1-Cdk1 kinase activity trigger different mitotic events, thus revealing how the remarkable reorganization of the cell is coordinated at mitotic entry. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Reid J.M.,UK Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2011

The forces driving the evolution of extra-pair reproduction in socially monogamous animals remain widely debated and unresolved. One key hypothesis is that female extra-pair reproduction evolves through indirect genetic benefits, reflecting increased additive genetic value of extra-pair offspring. Such evolution requires that a female's propensity to produce offspring that are sired by an extra-pair male is heritable. However, additive genetic variance and heritability in female extra-pair paternity (EPP) rate have not been quantified, precluding accurate estimation of the force of indirect selection. Sixteen years of comprehensive paternity and pedigree data from socially monogamous but genetically polygynandrous song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) showed significant additive genetic variance and heritability in the proportion of a female's offspring that was sired by an extra-pair male, constituting major components of the genetic architecture required for extra-pair reproduction to evolve through indirect additive genetic benefits. However, estimated heritabilities were moderately small (0.12 and 0.18 on the observed and underlying latent scales, respectively). The force of selection on extra-pair reproduction through indirect additive genetic benefits may consequently be relatively weak. However, the additive genetic variance and non-zero heritability observed in female EPP rate allow for multiple further genetic mechanisms to drive and constrain mating system evolution.

Izawa D.,UK Institute of Zoology | Pines J.,UK Institute of Zoology
Nature Cell Biology | Year: 2011

Progress through mitosis requires that the right protein be degraded at the right time. One ubiquitin ligase, the anaphase-promoting complex or cyclosome (APC/C) targets most of the crucial mitotic regulators by changing its substrate specificity throughout mitosis. The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) acts on the APC/C co-activator, Cdc20 (cell division cycle 20), to block the degradation of metaphase substrates (for example, cyclin B1 and securin), but not others (for example, cyclin A). How this is achieved is unclear. Here we show that Cdc20 binds to different sites on the APC/C depending on the SAC. Cdc20 requires APC3 and APC8 to bind and activate the APC/C when the SAC is satisfied, but requires only APC8 to bind the APC/C when the SAC is active. Moreover, APC10 is crucial for the destruction of cyclin B1 and securin, but not cyclin A. We conclude that the SAC causes Cdc20 to bind to different sites on the APC/C and this alters APC/C substrate specificity. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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