Innate immunity, assessed by plasma NO measurements, is not suppressed during the incubation fast in eiders.

Research paper by Sophie S Bourgeon, Thierry T Raclot, Yvon Y Le Maho, Daniel D Ricquier, François F Criscuolo

Indexed on: 02 Jan '07Published on: 02 Jan '07Published in: Developmental & Comparative Immunology


Immunity is hypothesized to share limited resources with other physiological functions and may mediate life history trade-offs, for example between reproduction and survival. However, vertebrate immune defense is a complex system that consists of three components. To date, no study has assessed all of these components for the same animal model and within a given situation. Previous studies have determined that the acquired immunity of common eiders (Somateria mollissima) is suppressed during incubation. The present paper aims to assess the innate immune response in fasting eiders in relation to their initial body condition. Innate immunity was assessed by measuring plasma nitric oxide (NO) levels, prior to and after injection of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a method which is easily applicable to many wild animals. Body condition index and corticosterone levels were subsequently determined as indicators of body condition and stress level prior to LPS injection. The innate immune response in eiders did not vary significantly throughout the incubation period. The innate immune response of eiders did not vary significantly in relation to their initial body condition but decreased significantly when corticosterone levels increased. However, NO levels after LPS injection were significantly and positively related to initial body condition, while there was a significant negative relationship with plasma corticosterone levels. Our study suggests that female eiders preserve an effective innate immune response during incubation and this response might be partially determined by the initial body condition.