MHC, TSP, and the origin of species: From immunogenetics to evolutionary genetics

Jan Klein, Akie Sato, Nikolas Nikolaidis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


The acronym Mhc, major histocompatibility complex, is customarily not allied with topics in evolutionary biology. Here, however, we attempt to demonstrate that the Mhc has much to offer to this discipline and intimate that evolutionary biologists who ignore its contributions miss out on a chance of applying a new approach to vexing questions. One aspect of the Mhc in particular affords a fresh look at the population processes that transform one species into another: the trans-species polymorphism, the passage of allelic lineages from ancestral to descendant species. We provide examples of using the Mhc polymorphism in estimating the size of the founding population of new species, and of analyzing the long-term population demographies of phylogenetic lineages. We then extend the concept of trans-species polymorphism to other genes, even those not evolving under balancing selection, and argue that the phenomenon is widespread between closely related species. On the example of the cichlid fishes of Lake Victoria, we demonstrate how the concept changes the interpretation of this so-called 1ldquo1species flock.1rdquo1 We contend that the conclusions reached regarding the cichlid fishes apply also to other examples of adaptive radiation, for example that of Darwin's finches, and so provide new insights into the nature of speciation in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-304
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual review of genetics
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics


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