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Journal Article

Reproduction affects immune defenses in the guinea pig even under ad libitum food


Guenther,  Anja
Research Group Behavioural Ecology of Individual Differences (Guenther), Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Trillmich, F., Guenther, A., Jäckel, M., & Czirják, G. Á. (2020). Reproduction affects immune defenses in the guinea pig even under ad libitum food. PLoS One, 15(3): e0230081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0230081.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-B472-E
Reproduction is one of the costliest processes in the life of an animal. Life history theory assumes that when resources are limiting allocation to reproduction will reduce allocation to other essential processes thereby inducing costs of reproduction. The immune system is vital for survival. If reproduction reduces investment in immune function, this could increase the risk of disease, morbidity and mortality. We here test in the guinea pig, if even under ad libitum food conditions, pregnancy and lactation reduce the activity of the adaptive and innate immune system compared to the reaction of non-reproducing animals. In response to a challenge with keyhole limpet haemocyanin the antibody-mediated adaptive immunity during (pregnancy and) lactation was reduced. Pregnant and lactating females showed higher levels of bacterial killing activity, an integrated measure of innate immunity, than non-reproducing females. However, two major effectors of the innate immunity, the natural antibody and the complement of pregnant and lactating females showed lower levels than in non-reproducing females. Pregnant and lactating females did not differ significantly in the expressed levels of innate immunity. Our results indicate that changes in the immune response during reproduction are physiological adjustments to predictable allocation problems, because they happen even under ad libitum food availability.