Major-histocompatibility-complex variation in two species of cichlid fishes from Lake Malawi

Hideki Ono, Colm O'Huigin, Herbert Tichy, Jan Klein

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62 Scopus citations


Lake Malawi in eastern Africa harbors >500 endemic species of cichlid fishes, all of which are believed to have emerged from a single founding population in the past 2 Myr. Molecular characterization of differences among the species could provide important information about the nature of speciation in the period of adaptive radiation. Because of the close relationship, however, molecular variation among the species has been difficult to ascertain. In this communication, we provide evidence for extensive differences, in major-histocompatibility-complex (Mhc) class II genes, between two related species, Pseudotropheus zebra and Melanochromis auratus. We used specific primers to amplify and sequence intron 1 and exon 2 of the class II genes from 18 individuals. Although we found 20 different sequences among the 42 that we produced, there was not a single sequence shared by the two species. Thus the study suggests that different cichlid species of Lake Malawi have different profiles of class II alleles, presumably because the polymorphism present in the ancestral founding population segregated differentially into the various species. These results make Mhc genes an important tool for elucidating speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1060-1072
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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