Differentiation at the MHCIIα and Cath2 loci in sympatric Salvelinus alpinus resource morphs in Lake Thingvallavatn
Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) colonizing streams and lakes in Iceland after the last ice age (~10.000 years ago), gave rise to multiple populations of small benthic morphotypes, often in sympatry with a pelagic morphotype. Earlier studies have revealed significant, but subtle, genetic differentiation between the three most common morphs in Lake Thingvallavatn. We conducted a population genetic screen on four immunological candidate genes Cathelicidin 2 (Cath2), Hepcidin (Hamp), Liver expressed antimicrobial peptide 2a (Leap-2a), and Major Histocompatibility Complex IIα (MHCIIα) and a mitochondrial marker (D-loop) among the three most common Lake Thingvallavatn charr morphs. Significant differences in allele frequencies were found between morphs at the Cath2 and MHCIIα loci. No such signal was detected in the D-loop nor in the other two immunological genes. In Cath2 the small benthic morph deviated from the other two (FST = 0.13), one of the substitutions detected constituting an amino acid replacement polymorphism in the antimicrobial peptide. A more striking difference was found in the MHCIIα. Two haplotypes were very common in the lake, and their frequency differed greatly between the morphotypes (from 22% to 93.5%, FST = 0.67). The results are consistent with a scenario where parts of the immune systems have diverged substantially among Arctic charr populations in Iceland, after colonizing the island ~10.000 years ago.