Fight or flight? – Flight increases immune gene expression but does not help to fight an infection

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Woestmann , L , Kvist , J A & Saastamoinen , M A K 2017 , ' Fight or flight? – Flight increases immune gene expression but does not help to fight an infection ' , Journal of Evolutionary Biology , vol. 30 , no. 3 , pp. 501-511 .

Title: Fight or flight? – Flight increases immune gene expression but does not help to fight an infection
Author: Woestmann, Luisa; Kvist, Jouni Antero; Saastamoinen, Marjo Anna Kaarina
Contributor organization: Biosciences
Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Research
Institute of Biotechnology
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Life-history Evolution Research Group
Date: 2017-03
Language: eng
Number of pages: 11
Belongs to series: Journal of Evolutionary Biology
ISSN: 1010-061X
Abstract: Flight represents a key trait in most insects, being energetically extremely demanding, yet often necessary for foraging and reproduction. Additionally, dispersal via flight is especially important for species living in fragmented landscapes. Even though, based on life-history theory, a negative relationship may be expected between flight and immunity, a number of previous studies have indicated flight to induce an increased immune response. In this study, we assessed whether induced immunity (i.e. immune gene expression) in response to 15-min forced flight treatment impacts individual survival of bacterial infection in the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia). We were able to confirm previous findings of flight-induced immune gene expression, but still observed substantially stronger effects on both gene expression levels and life span due to bacterial infection compared to flight treatment. Even though gene expression levels of some immunity-related genes were elevated due to flight, these individuals did not show increased survival of bacterial infection, indicating that flight-induced immune activation does not completely protect them from the negative effects of bacterial infection. Finally, an interaction between flight and immune treatment indicated a potential trade-off: flight treatment increased immune gene expression in naive individuals only, whereas in infected individuals no increase in immune gene expression was induced by flight. Our results suggest that the up-regulation of immune genes upon flight is based on a general stress response rather than reflecting an adaptive response to cope with potential infections during flight or in new habitats.
Subject: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
gene expression
immune response
insect flight
Melitaea cinxia
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by_nc_nd
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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