Whilst the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is well characterized in the anuran Xenopus, this region has not previously been studied in another popular model species, the common frog (Rana temporaria). Nor, to date, have there been any studies of MHC in wild amphibian host-pathogen systems. We characterise an MHC class I locus in the common frog, and present primers to amplify both the whole region, and specifically the antigen binding region. As no more than two expressed haplotypes were found in over 400 clones from 66 individuals, it is likely that there is a single class I locus in this species. This finding is consistent with the single class I locus in Xenopus, but contrasts with the multiple loci identified in axolotls, providing evidence that the diversification of MHC class I into multiple loci likely occurred after the Caudata/Anura divergence (approximately 350 million years ago) but before the Ranidae/Pipidae divergence (approximately 230 mya). We use this locus to compare wild populations of common frogs that have been infected with a viral pathogen (Ranavirus) with those that have no history of infection. We demonstrate that certain MHC supertypes are associated with infection status (even after accounting for shared ancestry), and that the diseased populations have more similar supertype frequencies (lower F(ST)) than the uninfected. These patterns were not seen in a suite of putatively neutral microsatellite loci. We interpret this pattern at the MHC locus to indicate that the disease has imposed selection for particular haplotypes, and hence that common frogs may be adapting to the presence of Ranavirus, which currently kills tens of thousands of amphibians in the UK each year.
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