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: Oregon food label measure headed for recount

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

6 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

11 hours ago

LiquidPiston has a new X Mini engine which is a small 70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered "prototype. This is a quiet, four-stroke engine with near-zero vibration. The company said it can bring improvements ...

Recommended for you

Warming world may spell bad news for honey bees

1 hour ago

Researchers have found that the spread of an exotic honey bee parasite -now found worldwide - is linked not only to its superior competitive ability, but also to climate, according to a new study published ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

2 hours ago

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.