Major histocompatibility complex diversity in the endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis).
Kennedy LJ., Randall DA., Knobel D., Brown JJ., Fooks AR., Argaw K., Shiferaw F., Ollier WER., Sillero-Zubiri C., Macdonald DW., Laurenson MK.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) influences immune response to infection and vaccination. In most species, MHC genes are highly polymorphic, but few wild canid populations have been investigated. In Ethiopian wolves, we identified four DLA (dog leucocyte antigen)-DRB1, two DLA-DQA1 and five DQB1 alleles. Ethiopian wolves, the world's rarest canids with fewer than 500 animals worldwide, are further endangered and threatened by rabies. Major rabies outbreaks in the Bale Mountains of southern Ethiopia (where over half of the Ethiopian wolf population is located) have killed over 75% of wolves in the affected sub-populations. In 2004, following a rabies outbreak, 77 wolves were vaccinated, and 19 were subsequently recaptured to monitor the effectiveness of the intervention. Pre- and post-vaccination rabies antibody titres were available for 18 animals, and all of the animals sero-converted after vaccination. We compared the haplotype frequencies of this group of 18 with the post-vaccination antibody titre, and showed that one haplotype was associated with a lower response (uncorrected P < 0.03). In general, Ethiopian wolves probably have an adequate amount of MHC variation to ensure the survival of the species. However, we sampled only the largest Ethiopian wolf population in Bale, and did not take the smaller populations further north into consideration.