Cortázar-Chinarro M, Meyer-Lucht Y, Van der Valk T, Richter-Boix A, Laurila A, Höglund J
BMC Genet. 21 (1) 38 [2020-03-30; online 2020-03-30]
While there is evidence of both purifying and balancing selection in immune defense genes, large-scale genetic diversity in antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), an important part of the innate immune system released from dermal glands in the skin, has remained uninvestigated. Here we describe genetic diversity at three AMP loci (Temporin, Brevinin and Palustrin) in two ranid frogs (Rana arvalis and R. temporaria) along a 2000 km latitudinal gradient. We amplified and sequenced part of the Acidic Propiece domain and the hypervariable Mature Peptide domain (~ 150-200 bp) in the three genes using Illumina Miseq and expected to find decreased AMP genetic variation towards the northern distribution limit of the species similarly to studies on MHC genetic patterns. We found multiple loci for each AMP and relatively high gene diversity, but no clear pattern of geographic genetic structure along the latitudinal gradient. We found evidence of trans-specific polymorphism in the two species, indicating a common evolutionary origin of the alleles. Temporin and Brevinin did not form monophyletic clades suggesting that they belong to the same gene family. By implementing codon evolution models we found evidence of strong positive selection acting on the Mature Peptide. We also found evidence of diversifying selection as indicated by divergent allele frequencies among populations and high Theta k values. Our results suggest that AMPs are an important source of adaptive diversity, minimizing the chance of microorganisms developing resistance to individual peptides.