Líffræðifélag Íslands - biologia.is
Líffræðiráðstefnan 2019

Erindi/veggspjald / Talk/poster V10

MHC genes in the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) population in Iceland

Höfundar / Authors: Hafrún Gunnarsdóttir, Charles Christian Riis Hansen, Snæbjörn Pálsson.

Starfsvettvangur / Affiliations: Háskóli Íslands

Kynnir / Presenter: Hafrún Gunnarsdóttir

MHC genes in the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) population in Iceland The white-tailed eagle population in Iceland declined dramatically in the 20th-century due to human persecution and resulted in only 20 pairs remaining alive in 1964. The population started to recover after the implementation of protection law and a ban on fox poisoning. Studying the consequences of this bottleneck could give a better understanding of the effects of inbreeding in a small isolated population.
This research will focus on the genes of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) in the Icelandic eagle population, which will be derived from an ongoing genomic analysis of the species. MHC genes are essential for the adaptive immune system to recognize peptides derived from pathogens. These genes include two main subfamilies, MHC class I and MHC class II. MHC genes are known to contain high diversity, generated by pathogen mediated selection. It has been hypothesized that MHC diversity is maintained by selection when exposed to high levels of inbreeding.
This masters project aims to study how the diversity within MHC I and MHC II has evolved. This will be assessed firstly by analysing the variation in the endangered Icelandic white-tailed eagle population, how that variation deviates from other populations, and how the variation in the species has diverged from related species. Signs of selection and accumulation of deleterious mutation will be estimated from the ratio of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions and compared to segregation of corresponding mutations within the species. The observed variation in the MHC genes will be further compared to the microbial diversity, including pathogens, which has been identified in the genome sequences obtained from the blood of the white-tailed eagles.