The possum is a major invasive pest in New Zealand. One option for its control is the use of immunocontraceptive vaccines. Initial trials of vaccines have shown individual variation in response. The use of vaccines on wild populations could result in the evolution of a resistant population through selection for possums that remain fertile because of low or no response. Understanding the basis of this variation is therefore important. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is an important influence on the nature of immune responses. This study has investigated the relationship between MHCalleles and individual immune responses to immunocontraceptive vaccines comprising zona pellucida peptides.We identified MHC alleles and putative haplotypes, and compared these between individuals with measured responses to immunocontraceptive vaccines. Two haplotypes were found to associate significantly with differences in vaccine response. Possums that carried haplotype 6 showed reduced responsiveness to one vaccine, while possums that carried haplotype 9 showed increased responsiveness to a separate vaccine. The identification of MHC haplotypes associated with different responses to immunocontraceptive vaccines offers the opportunity to understand what factors trigger non-response and the persistence of fertility in some individuals, and may allow vaccines to be optimised to minimise non-responsiveness.
Holland, O., Cowan, P., Gleeson, D., Duckworth, J., & Chamley, L. (2009). MHC haplotypes and response to immunocontraceptive vaccines in the brushtail possum. Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 82, 57-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jri.2009.04.008