Mate selection more biologically determined in some human populations

Sep 12, 2008

Some human populations may rely on biological factors in addition to social factors when selecting a mate. In a recent study, published September 12 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, scientists in China, France, and the United Kingdom report genomic data showing that immunity traits may be involved in mate choice in some human populations.

In several species it has been shown that the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), a large genomic region involved in immune response, influences mating selections and that this may be mediated by preferences based on body odor. Some previous studies have reported a tendency for humans to prefer MHC-dissimilar mates, encouraging heterozygosity at MHC loci in offspring and resulting in improved immune response. However, other studies, both directly in couples and also indirectly in "sweaty T-shirts" experiments, have reported conflicting results.

Adding to this debate is the recent study by Raphaëlle Chaix, Chen Cao and Peter Donnelly. The testing employed genome-wide genotype data and HLA types in a sample of African and a sample of European American couples, enabling the researchers to distinguish MHC-specific effects from genome-wide effects. The group examined whether husband-wife couples were more MHC-similar or MHC-dissimilar in comparison to random pairs of individuals.

African couples were not more MHC-similar or MHC-dissimilar, although genome-wide they were more similar than random couples, probably as a consequence of social factors. On the other hand, European American pairs were predominantly MHC-dissimilar, and drastically so in comparison to the genome, supporting the hypothesis that the MHC influences mate choice in this population. Future studies may add to this debate of whether biological traits play a significant role beside social traits in the process of mating.

Citation: Chaix R, Cao C, Donnelly P (2008) Is Mate Choice in Humans MHC-Dependent?. PLoS Genet 4(9): e1000184. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184 dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000184

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Researchers study vital 'on/off switches' that control when bacteria turn deadly

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA HS3 instrument views two dimensions of clouds

5 hours ago

NASA's Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) instrument, flying aboard an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft in this summer's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission, is studying the changing profile of the atmosphere ...

Recommended for you

A new quality control pathway in the cell

7 hours ago

Proteins are important building blocks in our cells and each cell contains millions of different protein molecules. They are involved in everything from structural to regulatory aspects in the cell. Proteins are constructed ...

Stem cells use 'first aid kits' to repair damage

9 hours ago

Stem cells hold great promise as a means of repairing cells in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke or injuries of the spinal cord because they have the ability to develop into almost any cell type. ...

User comments : 0