Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Integrative Biology


Biological Sciences

Major Professor

Nicola Anthony


One of the most important gene families to play a role in adaptive immunity is the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). MHC class II loci are considered to be the most variable loci in the vertebrate genome, and studies have shown that this variability can be maintained through complex co-evolutionary dynamics between host and parasite. Despite the rich body of research into the MHC, there is comparatively little understanding of its genomic architecture in reptiles. Similarly, loci associated with innate immunity have received little attention in reptiles compared to other vertebrates. In the first chapter, we investigated the structure and organization of the MHC in the Anolis carolinensis genome by sequencing and annotating five bacterial artificial chromosomes (BAC) from the green anole genome library. We were able to identify three mhc2a, four mhc2b, and up to 15 mhc1 loci in A. carolinensis. Furthermore, we were able to link 17 scaffolds and provide sequence data to fill two significant gaps in the genome assembly. In the second chapter, we investigated the relative importance of drift and selection in shaping mhc2 variability in the reptile Podarcis erhardii. We sequenced the mhc2 gene from lizard populations from 14 islands in the Aegean that have experienced bottlenecks of differing duration and intensity. Despite signals of balancing selection, patterns of mhc2 variation were similar to microsatellites, providing evidence that the dominant evolutionary force in this system is drift. In the third chapter, we investigated how parasite infection rates impact innate immune variability in A. sabanus, a lizard indigenous to Saba Island where natural fluctuations in Plasmodium infection rates have been documented. We developed primers and sequenced part of the peptide binding region of three Toll-like receptors (TLRs) - tlr4, tlr6, and tlr13 and several beta-defensin (BD) loci. Although we were unable to characterize BD variability, we found three different haplotypes in tlr4, and five in tlr6. However, nucleotide variability was low (π < 0.005) and was not associated with infection status. We nevertheless present primers for multiple TLR genes and two BDs that could be of use in future studies of reptile innate immunity.


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