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Discrimination of MHC-Derived Odors by Untrained Mice Is Consistent with Divergence in Peptide-Binding Region Residues

Lara S. Carroll, Dustin J. Penn and Wayne K. Potts
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 99, No. 4 (Feb. 19, 2002), pp. 2187-2192
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3057940
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Discrimination of MHC-Derived Odors by Untrained Mice Is Consistent with Divergence in Peptide-Binding Region Residues
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Abstract

Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a central role in immune recognition, yet they also influence the odor of individuals. Mice can be trained to distinguish odors mediated by classical MHC loci; however, training can introduce confounding behavioral artifacts. This study demonstrates that mice can distinguish some, but not all, naturally occurring allelic variants at classical MHC loci without prior training. This result suggests that MHC-disassortative mating preferences might operate by means of small MHC-based odor differences, and could therefore contribute to diversifying selection acting on MHC loci. Here we show that odors of two MHC mutant mouse strains (bm1 and bm3) can be distinguished, even after genetic background is controlled by intercrossing strains. These two strains differ by five amino acids, three of which are predicted to chemically contact peptides bound to the peptide-binding region (PBR), the site of antigen presentation for T cell recognition. However, the odors of neither bm1 nor bm3 were distinguished from their parental B6 haplotype after randomizing genomic background, despite discrimination of purebred B6 and bm1 strain odors. These combined results suggest that (i) there may be an MHC odor discrimination threshold based on divergence in PBR residues, providing a more logical pattern of MHC-based odor discrimination than found in previous training studies, where discrimination ability was not correlated with PBR divergence; and (ii) additional (non-MHC) mutations that influence odor have accumulated in these strains during the 100 generations of divergence between pure B6 and bm1 strains.

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