Multivariate immune defences and fitness in the wild: Complex but ecologically important associations among plasma antibodies, health and survival

Daniel H. Nussey, Kathryn A. Watt, Abigail Clark, Jill G. Pilkington, Josephine M. Pemberton, Andrea Linn Graham, Tom N. McNeilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite our rapidly advancing mechanistic understanding of vertebrate immunity under controlled laboratory conditions, the links between immunity, infection and fitness under natural conditions remain poorly understood. Antibodies are central to acquired immune responses, and antibody levels circulating in vivo reflect a composite of constitutive and induced functional variants of diverse specificities (e.g. binding antigens from prevalent parasites, self tissues or novel non-self sources). Here, we measured plasma concentrations of 11 different antibody types in adult females from an unmanaged population of Soay sheep on St Kilda. Correlations among antibody measures were generally positive butweak, and eight of the measures independently predicted body mass, strongyle parasite egg count or survival over the subsequent winter. These independent and, in some cases, antagonistic relationships point to important multivariate immunological heterogeneities affecting organismal health and fitness in natural systems. Notably, we identified a strong positive association between anti-nematode immunoglobulin (Ig) G antibodies in summer and subsequent over-winter survival, providing rare evidence for a fitness benefit of helminth-specific immunity under natural conditions. Our results highlight both the evolutionary and ecological importance and the complex nature of the immune phenotype in the wild.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20132931
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume281
Issue number1779
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 5 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • Anti-nuclear antibodies
  • Fitness
  • Immunity
  • Natural selection
  • Soay sheep
  • Strongyle nematodes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Multivariate immune defences and fitness in the wild: Complex but ecologically important associations among plasma antibodies, health and survival'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this