Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

MHC genes and parasitism in Carassius gibelio, a diploid-triploid fish species with dual reproduction strategies

Andrea Šimková1*, Martin Košař1, Lukáš Vetešník2 and Martina Vyskočilová1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, Brno 611 37, Czech Republic

2 Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i., Květná 8, Brno 603 65, Czech Republic

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:122  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-122

Published: 14 June 2013



The gibel carp is a fish species with dual reproduction modes, gynogenesis and sexual reproduction, coexisting in mixed diploid-polyploid populations. Following the Red Queen (RQ) assumption, asexual organisms are, due to their low genetic diversity, targets for parasite adaptation. Because MHC polymorphism is maintained by selection from parasites and sexual selection, MHC genes are considered as a suitable candidate for testing the RQ hypothesis. In this study, we investigated MHC variability and the selection pressure acting on MHC genes in sexual diploids and asexual triploids. In addition, we tested whether the asexual form of gibel carp suffers from higher parasite loads than the sexual form.


At the population level, genotype and allelic diversity of MHC were reduced in gynogenetic triploids when compared to sexual diploids. Different patterns in positively selected sites (PSS) between gynogens and sexual gibel carp were also found. A weak difference in parasite species richness was found between sexual fish and gynogens. However, two common clones of gynogens were significantly more parasitized than sexual diploids or other gynogens with rare MHC genotypes. At the individual level, the higher number of alleles was not associated with higher parasitism in either sexual diploids or gynogens.


The differences in MHC diversity between gynogenetic triploids and sexual diploids are in accordance with the hypothesis of sexually-mediated selection increasing MHC diversity and fulfil a prerequisite of the Red Queen hypothesis. The different patterns in PSS between gynogens and sexual gibel carp also suggest the potential role of sexual selection and supports parasite-mediated selection maintaining MHC diversity. We showed that the most common MHC genotypes of gynogenetic triploids are the target of parasite selection. Our results suggest that the MHC genotype in gibel carp is more important than allelic number for immunocompetence.

Gynogenesis; Sexual reproduction; Polyploid fish; MHC; Coexistence; Parasitism