The secret to finding true love may lie in genetic differences

Immune system DNA could influence mating

People are more likely to become lovers if their genes share little in common, according to a study that demonstrates a possible biological mechanism controlling the sexual attraction between men and women.

Heterosexual men and women with dissimilar genes are more likely to get married than people with a similar genetic heritage. The findings indicate that certain genes control some of the subconscious desires behind the choice of one partner over another, as a way of preventing inbreeding and boosting a child's immune defences.

Researchers studied the genes of 90 married couples and found that their DNA in a key region of their chromosomes was significantly different compared with the same stretch of DNA in 152 couples chosen at random from the population and who were neither married nor having sexual relations with one another.

The genes, called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), are part of the immune system. This is the first rsearch of its kind showing that they may play a significant role in whether or not couples are likely to get married.

If the MHC genes played no role in the choice of a mate, then the scientists would expect to find similar differences between both sets of couples – the married and the unmarried. However, the statistically significant difference suggests that the dissimilar MHC genes influenced whether men and women become attracted to one another.

"Although it is tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities, our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate," said Professor Maria da Graca Bicalho of the University of Parana in Brazil.

"We expect to find that cultural aspects play an important role in mate choice, and we certainly do not subscribe to the theory that if a person bears a particular genetic variant it will determine his or her behaviour," she said. "But we also think that the subconscious evolutionary aspect of partner choice should not be overlooked.

"This has an important role to play in ensuring healthy reproduction, by helping to ensure that children are born with a strong immune system better able to cope with infection."

It is possible that in addition to helping the body fight off diseases, the MHC genes have a subtle effect on body scents or pheromones which might in humans play a part in deciding whether a man or a woman is subconsciously considered to be attractive to an individual of the opposite sex.

"Pheromones play an important role in mammalian social behaviour. In humans, this has been more complex and questions like 'What draws people of the opposite sex together?' are still waiting for more investigations and answers," Professor Bicalho said.

The study does not, sadly, mean that scientists are able to say with any certainly whether one individual would fall in love with another.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee