Physical cues controlling seasonal immune allocation in a naturally-occurring vertebrate

Stewart, A, Hablützel, PI, Watson, HV, Brown, M, Friberg, IM, Cable, J and Jackson, JA ORCID: 2018, 'Physical cues controlling seasonal immune allocation in a naturally-occurring vertebrate' , Frontiers in Immunology, 9 , p. 582.

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Seasonal patterns in immunity are frequently observed in vertebrates but are poorly understood. Here we focussed on a natural piscine model, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), and asked how seasonal immune allocation is driven by physical variables (time, light and heat). Using functionally-relevant gene expression metrics as a reporter of seasonal immune allocation we synchronously sampled fish monthly from the wild (two habitats), and from semi-natural outdoors mesocosms (stocked from one of the wild habitats). This was repeated across two annual cycles, with continuous within-habitat monitoring of environmental temperature and implementing a manipulation of temperature in the mesocosms. We also conducted a long-term laboratory experiment, subjecting acclimated wild fish to natural and accelerated (× 2) photoperiodic change at 7 and 15°C. The laboratory experiment demonstrated that immune allocation was independent of photoperiod and only a very modest effect, at most, was controlled by a tentative endogenous circannual rhythm. On the other hand, experimentally-determined thermal effects were able to quantitatively predict much of the summer-winter fluctuation observed in the field and mesocosms. Importantly, however, temperature was insufficient to fully predict, and occasionally was a poor predictor of, natural patterns. Thermal effects can thus be over-ridden by other (unidentified) natural environmental variation and do not take the form of an unavoidable constraint due to cold-blooded physiology. This is consistent with a context-dependent strategic control of immunity in response to temperature variation, and points to the existence of temperature-sensitive regulatory circuits that might be conserved in other vertebrates.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in Immunology
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
ISSN: 1664-3224
Related URLs:
Funders: Leverhulme Trust
Depositing User: JA Jackson
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2018 11:53
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 22:56

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