Individual variation in the age of pubertal onset is linked to physical and mental health, yet the factors underlying this variation are poorly understood. Life history theory predicts that individuals at higher risk of mortality due to extrinsic causes such as infectious disease should sexually mature and reproduce earlier, whereas those at lower risk can delay puberty and continue to invest resources in somatic growth. We examined relationships between a genetic predictor of infectious disease resistance, heterozygosity of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), referred to as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene in humans, and self-reported pubertal timing. In a combined sample of men from Canada (n = 137) and the United States (n = 43), MHC heterozygosity predicted later self-reported pubertal development. These findings suggest a genetic trade-off between immunocompetence and sexual maturation in human males.
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