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Costly major histocompatibility complex signals produced only by reproductively active males, but not females, must be validated by a "maleness signal" in three-spined sticklebacks

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Boehm,  Thomas
Department of Developmental Immunology, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Milinski, M., Griffiths, S. W., Reusch, T. B. H., & Boehm, T. (2010). Costly major histocompatibility complex signals produced only by reproductively active males, but not females, must be validated by a "maleness signal" in three-spined sticklebacks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 277, 391-398.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-8EC8-7
Abstract
Olfactory information about individual major histocompatibility complex (MHC) immune genotypes is important for mate choice in several species. For example, during the mate choice decisions of three-spined sticklebacks, females assess males on the basis of odour cues that convey information about their MHC diversity. Here, we show that an additional 'maleness' signal is needed to validate the MHC signal. Furthermore, using interaction between natural odour of sticklebacks and synthetic MHC-ligand peptides, we show that MHC signals are conditional on the reproductive state in males. By contrast, we find that gravid females do not produce such signals. Since MHC olfactory signals relevant to mate choice decisions are conditional upon gender and reproductive state, we suggest that their manufacture is likely to be costly to senders, and therefore, potentially conditional on the health/parasitization status of the sender. We hypothesize that shedding of peptide-MHC complexes compromises immune function, selecting against unconditional use of these signals.